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Hit-and-Run Squad
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by Jay Seaver

"Needs to get into the fast lane."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: How does a movie about Seoul's car-crash investigators, on the tail of a Formula 1-driving criminal mastermind, have so little in the way of automotive action? For crying out loud, when a person buys a ticket for a movie named "Hit-and-Run Squad", they've got expectations, so get to the car chases already! This thing is 133 minutes long and really only has a couple of worthy bits of stunt driving.

That mastermind is "JC" Jung Jae-Chul (Cho Jung-Seok), who retired from the track early to get into business and has seemingly gotten as far as he has with bribery and extortion. It's being investigated by prosecutor Yoo Ji-Hyun (Yum Jung-Ah) and Lieutenant Eun Shi-Yeon (Kong Hyo-Jin), but when a sting backfires in disastrous fashion, with a star witness (Park Hyoung-Soo) attempting suicide during an interrogation and Eun reassigned to investigating car accidents. Not exactly a great career step for a rising star, and she's partnered with Seo Min-Jae (Ryoo Joon-Yeol), who can read an accident scene like a savant but isn't allowed to drive himself because of his checkered past. Then again, it's not like Eun is actually going to let this go, and Seo's skills may prove useful considering that JC still really likes his cars.

Even when you consider that JC is still invested in racing and racing-adjacent businesses, there's still a fairly substantial gulf in what goes on in those two types of stories, and the screenplay by Kim Kyung-Chan and director Han Jun-Hee doesn't do the best job in bridging it. The worst part is, all of the twisty corruption stuff which takes up the bulk of the running time not only doesn't make much sense, it's boring. The writers never seem to figure out who should be the big villain and why - the corruption seems to be fairly generic as opposed to in the service of something in particular - and it keeps stretching out and reversing until it becomes extremely hard to care about all the material that is just making the movie longer. There is so much going on that just doesn't matter, and it dilutes the bits that at least hint at something interesting in the focus on corruption.

At least when the cops do start chasing down "JC", there's some genuinely fun action. If these teams are the experts in automotive mayhem, the action should be built to highlight that, and from a chase that focuses on the mechanics of how the cops coordinate to box a truck in to the gearhead preparations to a finale that finally puts Seo behind the wheel and lets him and JC try to run each other down, there's an impressive showiness about this stuff. These are not just close-ups of cars zooming fast and people grimacing as they grip the steering wheel with special gloves.

The two leads are also a lot of fun, quality mismatches who don't need a romantic spark to work well off each other. Kong Hyo-Jin plays one of my favorite no-nonsense lady cops, a chip on her shoulder but clearly smart enough to be a little demanding, right from the moment when she walks on screen and the usual low-angle shot that typically highlights an intimidating stiletto heel that matches her suit instead shows white sneakers because she's ready to get right into things (Son Seok-Koo seems to be having fun as a husband who knows enough to get out of her way). Ryoo Joon-Yeol brings a cooler energy as the expert on all things automotive, just self-assured enough to create some friction and humble enough to intrigue. He's supported by a family of gearheads that are fun to watch but whose eventual purpose of giving Eun and Seo an extra support system when they must inevitably go rogue at the end because JC's reach extends into the police department.

Being that predictable isn't awful, especially in a more efficient movie that cuts to the chase and past everything else that could bog the story down. The heroes and even the villains of this movie deserve more of a chance to cut loose than their allowed, or at least to not have things reach the point where the audience is bored with them.

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originally posted: 01/22/20 05:22:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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  N/A (M)

Directed by
  Jun-hee Han

Written by
  Jun-hee Han

  Hyo-jin Kong
  Jun-yeol Ryu
  Jung-suk Jo
  Jung-ah Yum

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