Dr. Cheon And The Lost Talisman


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dr. Cheon And The Lost Talisman
"A supernaturally themed thriller which also delivers a healthy supply of laughs, this is a wild ride from start to finish." | Photo: courtesy of WellGoUSA

What do you do if you’ve been raised in a long, esteemed tradition of shamanism but, having watched your beloved grandfather perish in the line of work, you don’t want anybody to know that? Become a fake shaman, of course. Many of the skills required are the same. You’ll need to be well versed in magical lore, observant about the environment surrounding you, and good at figuring out what’s going on inside other people’s heads. Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won) even has a psychology degree. He justifies his lucrative scams, carried out with the help of technician-come-comedy-sidekick In-bae (Lee Dong-hwi), by noting that he is setting people’s minds at ease and resolving tensions within families. But he and In-bae are about to encounter a client whose situation necessitates rather more drastic action.

A supernaturally themed thriller which also delivers a healthy supply of laughs, this is a wild ride from start to finish. It’s helmed by Kim Seong-sik, who served as assistant director on Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar winning Parasite, and although it packs in a lot of genre clichés, the likeable central performances see it through. It’s well suited to international viewers as despite the fact that it’s heavily rooted in aspects of mythology which Korean people take it for granted that everyone will know, enough key details are explained, in non-jarring fashion, to enable those who don’t have that background to follow the story. Its conventional plotting helps with this, and there’s enough going on with characters and special effects to keep it interesting.

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There’s a detective element to the story, as the title suggests. A dame in trouble is a classic opener, and true to for, Dr. Cheon is initially unmoved by Yoo-gyeong’s (Esom) plight, despite in-bae being immediately smitten. A large amount of money brings the boss around, but what In-bae isn’t prepared for is what will happen when the nature of what Yoo-gyeong is dealing with becomes clear. Dr. Cheon has a secret past. A series of revelations follows, along with a series of spectacular fight scenes which mix martial arts with CGI supernatural phenomena. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it should go down well with MCU and DC fans who are ready to try something a little less familiar.

Gang is South Korea’s most popular actor and – an unusual combination – also one of its most versatile, though Western viewers are most like to be familiar with him from another action role, in Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula. Here he keeps it light, but works well as a hero of the less-than-wholly-ethical variety who combines a keen intelligence with fighting skill. This doesn’t mean that Dr. Cheon has an easy ride, however, getting thrown around like a rag doll in some scenes, as a sinister villain who wants to be a god will stop at nothing to get his way.

Although it’s a bit of a game of two halves, witty in the first and spooky in the second, when a bit more overlap would have served it well, this is an entertaining romp with just enough soul to make the characters’ fates matter. If they matter to enough people, it’s ready-made for sequels.

Reviewed on: 05 Oct 2023
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Dr. Cheon And The Lost Talisman packshot
The story of a fake exorcist, Dr. Cheon, who is commissioned to look into the case of a girl who is strongly possessed.

Director: Kim Seong-sik

Writer: Kim Seong-sik

Starring: Gang Dong-won, Joon-ho Huh, Esom, Lee Dong-hwi

Year: 2023

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: South Korea


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