Normally, the New York Asian Film Festival’s strongest represented country is Japan, but this year South Korea gives the island nation a run for its money. Troubleshooter is just one of several exciting popcorn flicks from Korea at this year’s fest, and certainly one of the most ebullient popcorn flicks you’re bound to see this year, from any country. The film’s action-adventure plot is, as the festival’s programmers suggest, something like a Korean Bourne film—except its backstory is more convoluted, it has more chase and fight scenes and is certainly more foul-mouthed than any Robert Ludlum adaptation.
Troubleshooter follows Kang Tae-Sik, an ex-cop turned private investigator framed for murder. That preliminary murder is just the start of a conspiracy involving a shadowy group of politicians who want to use Kang to set up an election scandal. Much running, hitting and jumping ensues; the film’s brisk pacing and cleanly shot action are consistently more important than plot. All you need to know is that forces beyond Kang’s control are dicking him around and now he has to jump through several hoops in order to survive and/or get back at them. Lead actor Sol Kyung-gu is especially good as beleaguered badass Kang: his charisma provides a more compelling reason to care about the character than does the negligible subplot involving Kang’s kidnapped younger daughter. Troubleshooter’s all about one man’s fight to stay above water in an increasingly ludicrous pulpy scenario and it’s very good at what it does.