Rak In ‘Believer 2,’ Explained: Is He Dead Or Alive?

2018’s Korean action film Believer, a remake of Hong Kong’s Drug War, received mediocre praise for what it was at the time of its release. Korea has delivered a plethora of gore-filled action thrillers consistently over the years, so it’s quite rare to find something that really stands out. Believer isn’t one that does stand out, but it does warrant some merit with its presentation and praise-worthy performances. Five years later, we get a mediocre sequel that feels extremely pointless and incoherent with the first part. Unfortunately, even replicating specific scenes and tying up loose ends doesn’t help make Believer 2 a decent sequel. To add to the disappointment, Rak, who was played by Ryu Jun-Yeol (a fan favorite) in Believer, was replaced by Oh Seung-Hoon.


Believer follows the story of an elusive drug lord who seems almost mythical because nobody’s ever met him, seen him, or talked to him directly. After an incident with his subordinates, all of whom were killed in one clean bombing, there’s one guy who offers to help Won-Ho, the detective, get to the bottom of it all. Throughout the movie, Rak helps Won-Ho, until the end, when we realize that he has been playing him all along. In Believer 2, we learn that Rak’s only motivation is to find the real Mr. Lee once and for all. Similar to a myriad of other characters whose raison d’etre is revenge. Rak is yet another morally gray character who happens to be steadfast in his hopes of avenging his parents, who died when he was really young. However, the nature of his revenge is much more selfish. Rak was quite young when his parents died; he could’ve easily moved on and picked up a righteous path to get to Mr. Lee, become a cop, or something, but instead, he chose to infiltrate from within. At the end of the film, we learn that the memory that haunts Rak is the smell of his parents’ rotten flesh because he was stuck with their dead bodies for too long on the boat. This is what left the biggest mark on him —not the fact that his parents died.

Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe this is a terribly written screenplay, but at the end of the day, everything he does in Believer 2 comes across as superficial. There was mischief in the character in Believer, actually making him seem like the perfect replacement for the real Mr. Lee if he ever chose to take over. At the beginning of the second part, this feeling is still there, but it wears off as the ruthless action sequences butcher any chance of him becoming an ephemeral drug lord. Whatever was built up in the first part that led to the ending in Norway is completely ruined in the second part with his new character development. What would’ve been interesting would be if Rak actually did take over the drug business after slowly and cheekily weeding out all the other players and then ultimately killing Won-Ho, who met his match after finding the real Mr. Lee. The film is so focused on the real guy that it loses interest in its other characters, which shows very clearly. My expectations aside, Rak’s new meek and dull disposition only hurts the character and doesn’t add to the story at all.


There are times when Rak shows emotions in the film, namely when he’s talking about people he cares about. His family (the biological one), his associates, Manko and Rana, and also when he’s talking about Won-Ho. This whole affair seems rather contrived, because if Rak was really a heartless revenge machine, why did he start caring for Won-Ho? Oh, another parental figure who can save the day. So Rak knows Won-Ho won’t hesitate to shoot him dead if the situation arises, but he also leaves him to die at the hands of Manko and Rana. There’s no way the guy couldn’t have calculated that outcome. So, does he care or not? It’s rather confusing. Or maybe, you could say, he stopped caring.

It’s never made clear why Mr. Lee, who was working with Rak’s parents, got them killed. We can assume it has something to do with his “curiosity”, but the couple who trusted him fell prey to a deceitful ending. Of course, it’s fair for Rak to want revenge, but it’s the process of it all and the end result that really leave one disappointed. I’m a little bit confused as to why the film is titled Believer. It should just be called “Finding Mr. Lee” at this point. It seems the open-endedness of the first film was a much bigger hit with audiences than this “fill-in-the-blank” sequence that completely erases any kind of thrill from what was.


Final Thoughts: 

Rak is a stoic and flat character who is motivated by revenge, and at the end of it all, he gives up and makes sure he dies at the hands of the desperate police officer Won-Ho. Maybe Rak knows Won-Ho won’t be able to deal with the guilt of getting people killed and then killing Rak himself, so he doesn’t bother making an escape plan for him. Additionally, there’s something too dark about Rak having killed Mr. Lee’s innocent children and grandchild (a little baby at that) that doesn’t quite tie in with the rest of his character, which is more empathetic, or so it seems. At the end of the day, the character comes across as half-baked and quite confused. Rak would’ve been a mysterious anti-villain had things been left as they were at the end of the first part.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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