The South Korean film The Attorney is misleading. From the poster and the first half-hour, the film gives the impression that it’s going to be a rather light tale of an up-by-his-bootstraps, money-hungry lawyer, Song Woo-Seok (Song Kang-Ho, The Face Reader), at odds with his more refined, elite legal colleagues. But that’s just a warm-up for what turns out to be a gripping courtroom drama riddled with South Korean politics and torture scenes that wouldn’t have been out of place in Zero Dark Thirty.
Set in the ’80s and based on real events, the film shows Woo-Seok realizing that money isn’t everything after a young man he knows, Park Jin-Woo (Si-wan Yim), has been “disappeared” by police under the pretense that he’s a communist student activist. Jin-Woo turns up two months later in prison, beaten, tortured and set for a kangaroo court. Woo-Seok agrees to defend him, even though it means losing a major corporate client, stoking the wrath of the military government and endangering his family.
The Attorney features a powerful, energetic performance by Woo-Seok, arguably South Korea’s most popular actor at the moment, and has been a big hit in South Korea since its release in December. It certainly deserves wider exposure in the U.S.
In Korean with English subtitles.
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