‘Seoul Vibe’ Brings the Drama and the Fun to Characterized 80’s Action
Riding off the success of the Korean action film Carter, which was, for lack of a better term, borderline violence, Netflix decided that viewers deserved something a little less gritty and a lot more fun. Seoul Vibe is everything you could ever want in a light-hearted action comedy- fast cars, loveable characters, and yes, a sprinkle of violence. It is a film that you can’t hate even if you tried, and chances are you’d watch it a second time for the heck of it.
The film excels in a lot of areas, first being the gravity-defying, earth-shattering, and completely mind-blowing stunts that rival that of the Fast and Furious franchise. Vintage cars are jumping off moving planes, high-speed chases are destroying buildings and passers-by are almost being knocked out by reckless driving. If you’re not screaming your head off at the thought of one of the characters breaking a limb because of the “not to be practiced in real life” stunts, then there must be something wrong with you. Of course, no limbs were broken because the film is a big-budget Korean and Netflix production, filled to the brim with an experienced stunt coordinator and stunt crew. Kudos to them and the actors for delivering excellent performances.
Next is the retro fashion. Netflix must be keeping up with the styles debuted at Fashion Week because the latest fashion trend is out with the new, in with the old. There’s a general clamor for vintage frocks and pieces that give you a sense of nostalgia and that’s the vibe the film tried to execute. Oversized tracksuits, mismatched colors, larger-than-life chains, bright ensembles, and acid wash jeans were a big thing in the ’80s and it’s wonderful to see it on screen, albeit with modern twists and “hipper” turns.
No retro action film is complete without vintage cars and Seoul Vibe has lots of them: Hyundai’s, BMW’s, and Porsche’s are on full display and any car enthusiast would salivate at their sheer sleekness. Of particular note are the featured Hyundai retro models – the Pony Pickup, the Sonata, and the Grandeur. Further investigation shows that Hyundai actually did supply the Netflix film with its cars. This is part of their newly incorporated marketing strategy that is aimed at targeting millennials and Gen Z consumers. The only downside of the elaborate car display is that most of the cars end up being wrecked in high-speed chases.
The Seoul Vibe soundtrack was curated by DJ Soulscape and Kang Nene. Each song perfectly fits the pace and speed of the film. Run-DMC and Davy DMX are always good choices when you’re driving so fast to the point that you’re going to get whiplash whilst trying to evade a bad guy who wouldn’t stop pulling the trigger on your sleek wheels.
Everything talked about thus far is cinematography and aesthetics, which the film gets brownie points for. Let’s delve into the plot. Right before the 1988 Olympic Games, an illegal driving team based in Seoul is hired by a prosecutor to take down a criminal syndicate. In exchange for their cooperation, the prosecutor offers the team a chance to start a new life in the United States on a clean slate. Their criminal history will be erased and they’ll get new passports. The offer is too good to pass up so they agree and infiltrate the criminal syndicate. Their job is simple: act blind and don’t speak as you smuggle illegal goods and stolen money into Korea. The team does well in their tasks till their new employers realize that they are nothing but two-timers. All bets are off then and the stakes are raised so high to the point that they almost lose their lives. Thankfully they don’t and through sheer grit, the power of friendship, and, well, cars, they’re able to send the members of the criminal syndicate to prison and absolve themselves of criminal responsibility.
That’s the short-form version of what happened and if you think it’s cliché, well, it is. There’s nothing particularly special about the plot. The Oceans franchise, the earlier mentioned Fast and Furious franchise, and the James Bond franchise all have the same lineup of specialists that band together for the sole purpose of defeating the bad guys. It’s a familiar song and dance, only in Korean, and that might just be the only downside of the film.
Speaking of lined-up specialists, the illegal driving team has a name. It’s called the “Sanggye-dong Supreme Team” and it consists of the leader, Park Dong-wook (Yoo Ah-in), an expert driver with big dreams of going to the United States to compete in the race at Daytona. Dong-wook is incredibly smart and ballsy, so ballsy that he willingly offers his life for the sake of his friends. His wit, perceptiveness, and “live life on the edge” persona heavily contribute to the success of the team. Park’s sister, Yoon-hee (Park Ju-hyun) is just as smart as her brother and she uses her feminine charm and radiant personality to get what she wants from the bad guys. There’s Bok-nam (Lee Kyu-hyung) who adds to the hilarity of the film with his antics, and Joon-gi (Ong Seong-wu) whose heart is purer than raw gold. Last but not least, there’s Woo-sam (Go Kyung-pyo), a talented DJ who provides the soundtrack to the team’s lives and helps them uncover a vital piece of information that almost cost him his life. As earlier mentioned, all these characters are loveable and you can find a little bit of yourself in them.
Overall, “Seoul Vibe” is a feel-good, fashion-forward, action-packed film that’ll have you either on the edge of your seat or laughing your socks off.
“Seoul Vibe” is still available for streaming on Netflix.
Streaming Network: Netflix
Release Date: August 26, 2022
Run-time: 2 hours 20 minutes, and 11 seconds
Director: Moon Hyeon Seong
Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Go Kyung-pyo, Lee Kyu-hyung, Park Ju-hyun, Ong Seong-wu, Kim Sung-kyun, Jung Woong-in, Moon So-ri, and Oh Jung-se
Language: Korean (with English subtitles)