Review of Korean kidnapping action-thriller set in Lebanon, ‘Ransomed’

August 8, 2023 Mario Bautista 601 views

Ransomed1‘RANSOMED’ is a gritty Korean action-thriller directed by Kim Seong-hun whose original series, “Kingdom”, is a big hit on Netflix and whose film, ‘A Hard Day’, was remade locally starring Dingdong Dantes.

The story of “Ransomed” is inspired by a real life event that happened to a Korean diplomat in 1986. The lead character is Min-Joon (played by Ha Jung Woo, “Narco Saints”), a foreign affairs diplomat working with the South Korean government. He is just an ordinary diplomat but he has a lot of drive and determination as he wants to be assigned in Europe or America.

He is bypassed when a younger colleague gets promoted instead of him. So, to be noticed, he volunteers to take on an unofficial mission on condition that he will later be assigned in the U.S.A.

The secret operation will require him to go to Beirut in Lebanon to rescue a colleague, kidnapped almost two years ago, who their officials have presumed to be dead.

But suddenly, he sends a coded message on the phone saying he is still alive and is being held hostage. So now, Min-Joon is sent with the ransom money to save him from his captors.

The problem is it’s very dangerous to be in Lebanon at that time (1986) as a civil war is going on. When brigands learned that he is coming over with ransom money, they want to get him first to take the money from him.

On hand to be of help to him is an unlikely ally, Pan Soo (Ju Ji Hoon, “Kingdom”), a Korean taxi driver he meets by chance at the airport who is working in Lebanon as an illegal alien.

He speaks the Arabic language fluently and can be an interpreter for Min-Joon. He is also very familiar with the streets of Lebanon. The only problem is that he is a swindler who cannot be relied upon. At one point, he even steals the ransom money from Min-Joon and runs away.

With nobody else to help him, Min-Joon has no choice but to trust Pan Soo, who returns to him conscience-stricken after talking to his Arab girlfriend. This makes the movie a kind of buddy action thriller as they team up to accomplish Min-Joon’s dangerous attempt to help their fellow countryman and bring him home back to Korea.

Will he succeed to do this even with an unlikely ally and with his own Korean government not willing to help him officially? The movie works as the script is very well written. You will really sympathize with the plight of Min-Joon who has to make a lot of personal sacrifices, and also later, with Pan-Soo who proves to be a worthy friend to Min-Joon after they start on a love-hate relationship.

There are many dynamic and exciting action set pieces, including a chase scene in the narrow streets of Morocco (where the film was shot on location, standing for Lebanon as it’s said that they have the same scenery and ambiance.)

The slambang action is also laced with humorous scenes, most specially those involving the mischievous Pan-Soo.

Both Ha Jung Woo and Ju Ji Hoon give very competent, endearing performances and the final scene involving the two of them unexpectedly reunited in the end is quite touching. ‘Ransomed’ opens in theaters nationwide this Wednesday, August 9.