The Korean film industry spits out crime thrillers as if they have an array of scripts with minor changes simply waiting for them every two days. At this point, I’m left asking myself, “Do you love Korean cinema or do you love crime thrillers?”. Alright, it’s not like we don’t get fantastic Korean movies in other genres, but this seems to be an overfavored one. But does The Wild pass the vibe check? I suppose yes and no. There are some scenes in this film that come across as unique even in this overdone genre, with the same kind of fight choreographies, similar costumes, plots, and everything in between; however, there’s nothing new when it comes to the plot. I guess it’s still a gritty tale of crime and punishment that ends rather tragically. I suppose, at the end of the day, it’s a study of the “pseudo-hero” character. Most of these crime films have one thing in common: they’ve got us believing all these criminals are some kind of heroes because they’re saving the day, but they’re just doing the most convenient thing for themselves!
What Happens In The Film?
Woo-Cheol is in prison after killing a young man in an underground boxing ring. A woman and her son sit across from him in the visiting cell. She tells Woo-Cheol to look up so show her son the man who killed his older brother. This was 8 years ago. In the present day, Woo-Cheol is greeted by Do-Sik and Hyun-Tae, his two comrades, and a piece of tofu (traditional Korean out-of-prison food). Woo-Cheol’s time in prison and the guilt built from the visits of the mother and son have made him choose the path of a model citizen. He no longer wants to be a part of Do-Sik’s crime syndicate. On the other hand, Do-Sik is fired up to have Woo-Cheol back on the team, his old friend and best man. He’s also got a new member on board, Director Kang. After spending some time with his friends, Do-Sik sends Woo-Cheol away for a surprise event he’s planned for him. This happens to be a sex worker named Bom. Woo-Cheol isn’t interested in doing anything with Bom, though, as we’ve learned, he’s a changed man. Woo-Cheol feels especially uncomfortable when he notices slits on Bom’s wrists. It’s a reminder of his time not knowing what to do with himself in prison.
In the meantime, Do-Sik is called somewhere else to handle a crisis. A detective named Cho Jeong-Gon is a client of Do-Sik, and he might’ve killed a sex worker after taking too many drugs himself. Jeong-Gon is Do-Sik’s inside man, so he has to treat him well. It’s the only way his drug business can function smoothly. He doesn’t even stop him from disrespecting Director Kang. The big mess is that the drugs are coming to Do-Sik from North Korean defectors. Detective Cho would prefer doing work within borders, which is why he’s making a big scene to get Do-Sik to come to his senses. This way, he would get a much larger cut and could move to another country and live a luxurious life of drugs and women (barf). Cho also calls Bom his favorite among the sex workers, but it’s obvious he mistreats them all, so she ends up staying back in the room with Woo-Cheol, who, like a gentleman, takes the couch.
On the day of the dead boxer’s death anniversary, Woo-Cheol visits the Columbarium and notices pictures of the boxer and Bom together. Bom used to be the kid’s girlfriend, and now Woo-Cheol has seemingly fallen for her too (maybe it’s just a protective instinct?).
What Really Happened At The Match?
Back at the time of the match, people placed their bets on both players. The betting would close after the first round, which would give Do-Sik enough time to figure out how to fix the match. Do-Sik drugged the young player Woo-Cheol was playing against, which is why he ended up dead. Knowing the truth, Woo-Cheol took the fall for Do-Sik voluntarily. Possible guilt or something of the sort for dealing the last blow, I suppose. It seems that Myeong-Joo, aka Bom, always knew who Woo-Cheol was. She believed it was an accident, and that Woo-Cheol didn’t do it on purpose. I can’t really understand why she would fall for him, but I suppose it’s the commonality of her ex and him being boxers, along with the fact that Woo-Cheol is a protective figure for her and even beats up Detective Cho when he forces himself on her, that makes her see hearts.
Why Does Woo-Cheol Go Into The Drug Business?
Since Detective Cho is so important to the business, Woo-Cheol is forced to make the deal with North Korean defectors Gak-Su and Cho for Do-Sik. Gak-Su has his hands on 40 kg of drugs from Pyongyang. The factory was raided, and so he had to get it all at once. This is not something Do-Sik can afford, but Gak-Su assures him that he doesn’t have to overbuy. On the other hand, since Woo-Cheol has the same surname as Gak-Su’s mother, he feels somewhat bonded to the man and trusts him. Woo-Cheol is sent to work at Madam Han’s, where Bom works. He has to stand guard as men visit the place for their services.
What Web Is Woo-Cheol Tangled In?
Now all three men that Woo-Cheol is working with want to bring each other down. In the meantime, he’s in love with Bom, and his friend Hyun-Tae is in love with one of the other sex workers, which Director Kang does not approve of. They can’t be “using” the girls for themselves. At this time, there are also a couple of North Korean defectors from Gak-Su’s team who are there for pleasure. They harass Bom, and she rebels in front of Woo-Cheol. Angered by what’s happening, Woo-Cheol holds one of the men down on the table, ready to beat him up. Director Kang comes by to stop him from interfering with the client’s business. Woo-Cheol glances at Bom for one second and loses his temper. He then beats up Kang instead of the client, but he’s so furious that he doesn’t stop until Kang’s nose and some teeth are broken. The police arrive, and Cho drags Woo-Cheol away to an alley where a young man attacks Woo-Cheol. It’s the kid whose brother’s death Woo-Cheol went to prison for.
The kid notices Bom in the police station, where Cho is telling him he could’ve been put in prison, but the boy doesn’t care since the murder sentence is only 7 years. He only wants revenge. However, when he looks at Bom, he remembers that she’s his brother’s old girlfriend. He exploits her for money by telling her that his brother had fought with his mom for her on the night he died. Bom had started to work for Detective Cho so he could catch Do-Sik through Woo-Cheol. However, so many years have passed, and she’s stuck being a sex worker and nothing more (Cho is using her the most, Disgusting).
Hyun-Tae asks Woo-Cheol to cut him in on the deal because he wants to take his girlfriend Yeri (the other sex worker) and get away from the world of crime. Do-Sik tells Gak-Su that he’ll buy all the drugs from him, but he has other plans; he wants Woo-Cheol to kill him so, like Detective Cho had planned, they can take over the business. On the other hand, Gak-Su asks Woo-Cheol to work with him and get rid of Do-Sik and Cho (what is this crime triangle?).
Elsewhere, Madam Han gives Bom the money to pay off the kid. Woo-Cheol follows her as he worries for her safety. He doesn’t want her to take a drastic step again. Back at Madam Han’s, Do-Sik wants to know why Woo-Cheol would jeopardize everything just for a girl like Bom. He tries to assault her, but Madam Han stops him. He then forces himself on Madam Han instead, showing his true colors. The man can’t handle his own ego and uses his brute strength on a woman because he’s weak and irrelevant. On the other hand, Cho thinks he needs to get rid of Bom to get to Woo-Cheol, so he sends the young kid to her, telling him that she’s seeing the old man who killed his brother. The kid tries to kill Bom, but she stabs him in the neck, killing him. Woo-Cheol visits her and comforts her. He promises to come back for her after dealing with the other horrifying men.
Who Kills Woo-Cheol?
Woo-Cheol pretends to kill Gak-Su in front of Do-Sik and gets his share of the money. He’s also asked Hyun-Tae to pick up Bom when she gets released by the police for killing the boxer’s brother. Woo-Cheol then hands Cho the money, but Cho’s drugged up and tries to joke around with a gun in front of Woo-Cheol. Enraged and out of patience, when Cho has his gun in his own mouth, Woo-Cheol grabs it and shoots him dead (he deserved it, for sure). Fortunately, he’s had Bom released by then, and she’s safely in a car with Hyun-Tae. But, is she really safe? Hyun-Tae is in a bind because Yeri has been taken by Do-Sik, and if he doesn’t kill Woo-Cheol, then Do-Sik will kill Yeri. Hyun-Tae puts Bom in the trunk of his car and tells Woo-Cheol she’s been hidden away safely. Woo-Shil is pretty wounded at this point, as Cho had jokingly shot him in the knee. Woo-Cheol hears Bom’s voice from the trunk, but Hyun-Tae stabs him in the chest, apologizing and telling him what’s happened with Yeri. Woo-Cheol, with the kindness of his heart, tells Hyun-Tae that he trusts him fully, so he can kill him with the promise of freeing Bom. Woo-Cheol lies in a pool of blood as Bom cries her eyes out when she realizes he’s dead.
But there’s more! Gak-Su isn’t dead, so he and his men attack Do-Sik’s crew at Madam Han’s. Do-Sik manages to escape, and it seems Director Kang is going to end up dead; however, Gak-Su has bigger plans for him. He tells him to stab his boss in the back and come work with him. At the end of the movie, Director Kang meets a relaxed Do-Sik who is fishing. Do-Sik makes a statement about how some people would do anything in the name of money. When he turns his back on Director Kang and asks if the North Koreans are done, Kang replies no, turning him to face him, and stabs him in the stomach. The Wild ends with Madam Han doing business with Gak-Su and Kang, and Gak-Su drinking in the memory of Woo-Cheol. Bom may be free from Cho and the sex work business; however, she’s gone back to doing drugs and imagines herself cooking a meal for Woo-Cheol in her apartment, where they live together.
The Wild ends on quite a sad note because all that Woo-Cheol ever did after coming out of prison was try to give Bom the freedom she deserved. Did he really do her any good by leaving her alone? I don’t think so. Especially not after promising he’d come back for her. I suppose this is why I’d like to call him a “pseudo-hero.” It’s all fake because he dies selfishly, getting closure for his guilt and doing his bit.