Special Delivery


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Special Delivery
"Alongside the thrilling driving sequences, there are some great fight scenes of the variety which shun polish and show us characters who really look like they’re suffering." | Photo: Fantasia International Film Festival

There are two ways that a South Korean film about a company willing to deliver absolutely anything can go. It could be animated, quirky and cute. Or it could be like this. Chief Jang (real name Jang Eun-ha, played by Parasite’s Park So-dam) is a blue-haired woman with a dangerous past. Her combat-style driving would leave the Fast And The Furious team in the dust, she’s not intimidated by anyone, and you’d better not argue with her when it comes to wearing a seatbelt. She’s the woman you need if you have to get across town in a hurry with gangsters on your trail, but she’s about to find herself out of her depth for the first time.

Kim Du-shik is in trouble with the mob. he has come into possession of a bag full of cash and a bank key fob which is literally worth millions. When corrupt cop Captain Cho and his gangster minions come looking for him, he knows it’s too late, so he lifts his small son Kim Seo-won (Jung Hyun-jun) through a window, gives him the cash and the key fob and tells him to run. Seo-won makes it to the pick-up point on his own, getting into Jang’s car just in time as the bad guys try to grab him. Naturally they don’t give up, but prepare to hunt him – and anybody helping him – across the city, closing in for the kill.

Hard-bitten action hero and cute kid: it’s a familiar combination, but once again a Korean director has taken a Western action movie formula and demonstrated how it can be done better. Jang doesn’t want this responsibility but as her attempts to get rid of Seo-won fail, she gradually finds herself warming to him. There’s a suggestion that he reminds her of a life she had to leave behind. Their scenes together are deftly handled and there’s no nonsense about maternal instinct – she interacts with him just as a man in her position might, and this film feels more natural as a result. Family or community values are further reinforced by the pair’s interactions with Jang’s boss and the co-worker who has a crush on her, but they never get in the way of the action nor noticeably soften the brutality of certain scenes.

This is important because female action heroes are rare in South Korean cinema – especially those of a non-supernatural variety. Whilst Jang is arguably carrying a degree of trauma, she doesn’t fall into the troubled woman acting out stereotype either, and is refreshingly straightforward. She’s also unusual in the society the film depicts, to the degree that, once Cho hears that she’s female and impossible to catch in a car, he can immediately guess who she is. The irony of this is that Park So-dam has a traumatic past of her own, involving a nasty car crash, and until she was cast she had been avoiding driving as a result. None of this is visible on her face even as she performs some of her own stunt work, which adds an extra layer to her impressive performance.

Alongside the thrilling driving sequences, there are some great fight scenes of the variety which shun polish and show us characters who really look like they’re suffering. Jang is battered and bruised throughout and looks exhausted by the final confrontation, but this adds to the sense of danger rather than depleting the dynamism of the action. Meanwhile young Jung takes his character through difficult emotional territory and maintains a sense of his innocence without ever becoming mawkish or depressing to watch. His efforts to take matters into his own hands add a touch of unpredictability to events but are never allowed to push it into comedic territory.

Setting the mood nicely at the start of 2022's Fantasia International Film Festival, Special Delivery will keep you on the edge of your seat, and leave you wanting to see more of Jang.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2022
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Special Delivery packshot
"I deliver everything that the post office service does not handle." Eun-ha, who is a normal junkyard employee, secretly works as a delivery clerk that deals with unusual delivery requests.

Director: Park Dae-min

Writer: Park Dae-min

Starring: Park So-dam, Heo Dong-won, Kim Eui-sung, Jo Hee-bong

Year: 2022

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: South Korea

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