Parents' Guide to

Believer

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Bloody, violent, drug-heavy remake not as good as original.

Movie NR 2023 123 minutes
Believer movie poster: In triangle slices encircling title at bottom six Korean faces in black and white all look serious and stern

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Despite being fun to watch, many of this thriller's elements sound good on paper, but everything doesn't quite come together. Moments of brutal and bloody violence throughout Believer do help shock the viewer into remembering that the stakes are high, but this film sorely misses a foundation and a heart. Even though events are preceded by a brief attempt to ground the ongoings in a real-world corporate context, the film rushes off to set piece after set piece, twist and turn after twist and turn, and never stops to breathe, do some world-building, character development, or contextualizing. After meeting some minor players, Won Ho races off to chase lead after lead, with each encounter often leaving many people dead, shot, beaten, or tortured. Perhaps if there were more explanations for Won Ho's dedication, we might be more behind his effort. Sure he's a good cop, but we know very little about him as a person, his life, his family, his past, his career, his friends, etc. The old cliched question, "what's his motivation?" keeps popping up, and it is never answered.

Unfortunately, this means that the film lacks a heart or a center. It lacks a central reason for why we should care about whether or not these criminals or Mr. Lee are ever caught. What made the great Chow Yun-fat led crime thrillers in his John Woo days (The Killer, Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow) was that he always had a heart, whether cop or criminal. Instead, in Believer, only the fantastical and maniacal criminals are the ones to appreciate, as they are unpredictable, insane, and simply, much more fun. Indeed, the most electric characters are the ones who aren't Won Ho: Cha Seung-won's Brian and Kim Ju-hyuk's Jin Ha Rim both completely steal the show.

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