Chungmuro/Film Reviews
Movie Review: Blind
by | April 28, 2012 | 41 Comments

Next up is a movie that’s been on my to-watch list for a while – last year’s crime thriller Blind. True to its title, it focuses on a blind protagonist’s ‘eyewitness’ account to help solve a string of serial murders. While not necessarily sweeping the box office (competing directly against Bow, the Ultimate Weapon certainly didn’t help), Blind held up well thanks to its star power and took home an award for best screenplay, with headliner Kim Haneul winning two best acting awards for her portrayal of a blind woman with serious guts.

She’s joined by Yoo Seung-ho, who does a solid job as a doubtable second witness and eventual sidekick to his blind noona. Despite the winning efforts of its two lead stars (and some memorable supporting characters), Blind is a thriller with an identity crisis, caught somewhere between slasher territory and a sophisticated crime-solving drama. Somewhere along the line it loses its footing with its sheer predictability (think Scream without the same sense of self-awareness), and ends up trying to be cooler than it is – which is never great territory for a thriller to be in.

Blind starts off with a dramatic punch, though at its core it’s a pretty standard Girl Versus Psychopath film. Our heroine ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, all set to become prey to a crazed killer, but a stroke of fate (and a stroke of bad luck for another unsuspecting soul) lands her a reprieve. Instead of sight she uses all of her other keen senses to help the police in their investigation, and soon becomes the chief target of the murderer she’s attempting to help track down.

Her quest is both helped and hindered by the appearance of a young man claiming to have actually seen the same events she describes in a different light. Of course, things change when they both become targets of the same psychopath, and their struggle to stay alive and catch the murderer forms the basis of our story.

I’m a huge fan of the horror/thriller genre, and have to give points to the film for trying hard to deliver thrills and chills. The acting is superb on the side of Good (our heroine and our reluctant hero), but on the side of Bad, the level of under-development was near criminal (har). Not every psychopath-centric movie need delve into criminal psychology, but you can’t just give us “mad surgeon” and consider yourself done, because that’s lazy.

The blind angle does add something new to the proceedings, and there’s definitely some depth to the characters hinted at without being fully explored. Unfortunately, even within the strict confines of its own genre filled with spectacular and unforgettable films, Blind manages only to remain a step above normal.

We meet our heroine, MIN SOO-AH (Kim Haneul) as a police trainee in the moments leading up to the accident which causes her blindness. She’s a sharp and clever woman clearly suited to the job, and one who’s grown up as an orphan with only a makeshift family to her name. A key member of that family is a boy she considers her younger brother despite not being actually related, and one she sees fit to save from a possibly bad lifestyle by basically kidnapping him in the beginning of the film.

In an effort to be a good older sister/mother to him despite his cries to the contrary, Soo-ah handcuffs him to the inside of her car so he won’t try to escape during the drive. Unfortunately he ends up being too incensed at his noona to realize his actions to free himself could cause an accident, which causes Soo-ah to lose control of the car and crash into the guardrail overlooking a highway below.

Soo-ah gets thrown from the car and sustains a heavy head injury, while her brother remains trapped inside of the car teetering over the edge of the bridge due to the handcuffs. The world becomes hazy as she tries to make it to him in order to save him, but she’s too heavily wounded to make it in time. The car, with her brother in it, falls over the edge of the bridge.

It’s a great emotional opening, because it’s the catalyst for Soo-ah’s blindness as well as a heavy emotional scar she carries. When we catch up to her next it’s been three years, and we see her go about her day to day life with her impairment fairly well.

Soo-ah has an overall bad couple of days as she’s rejected by the police chief to become a trainee again (he cites her carelessness in using handcuffs on her brother which resulted in his death), and almost gets hit by multiple cars despite the aid of her seeing eye dog, SEUL-GI. A trip to see her caring “Mother” from the orphanage results in some painful memories of her brother, and she rejects any help to get herself home on the basis of pride.

So we can see that she’s capable, but has bad days just like everyone else. While she’s waiting for a cab on a rainy night she instead gets picked up by a shady figure – he’s our resident psychopath, MYUNG-JIN (Yang Young-jo), and he knows an easy target when he sees one.

She thinks it’s a deluxe cab, and the movie makes no qualms about letting us know he’s our bad guy right away. Perhaps acting on instinct she rejects a drink offer of coffee from him, and the ensuing struggle to get her to drink it results in a hit-and-run.

Even from the short ride, the camera lets us know what she’s picked up on – the sounds of his watch, the expensive leather interior. She’s left in the car after the accident and hears a woman’s moan, causing her to confront the driver outside. He’s just finished putting a body in the trunk, but claims to Soo-ah that he merely hit a dog.

She knows better, and Myung-jin grows panicked when she pulls out her phone and tries to force her into the car. Luckily her trainee skills come in handy as she’s able to physically overpower him, enough so that he has to leave her on the street when another car approaches to avoid being caught.

This leads her to the police station, though no one is wiling to take her testimony seriously.

Just in case we weren’t sure about Myung-jin being a psychopath, we get treated to a scene of his underground surgical lair where he’s taken the girl he hit, and where other dead bodies remain. For a torture scene it’s actually really tame, since the events are only hinted at – he likes to work naked, and he rapes his victims before killing them. Standard stuff. This is a hint at what we get for the rest of the film, one that’s violent in nature, but also one that surprisingly shies away from getting into the details of its violence, using quick cuts and copious amounts of blood almost as a substitute for the actual violent acts.

It’s only when a missing person is reported in the same area as the hit-and-run that Soo-ah is brought back into the police station to give her blindwitness account.

The reluctant officer assigned to the case, DETECTIVE JO (Jo Hee-bong) quickly endeared himself as possibly my favorite character in the film. He’s down on his luck as an officer, always stuck with the work that no one else wants to do, and constantly gets made fun of by his colleagues for his country accent. What’s nice about him is how he’s judged for being incapable, yet he isn’t – and the same goes for Soo-ah.

This helps to make them a perfect match, as he first thinks interviewing her is a waste of time, only to be floored by how keen her senses are. She’s even able to tell his height, weight, and age just from the way his voice sounds. He’s impressed, and the two form an unlikely and likable team as he begins to rely more and more on her as the case becomes much bigger than a simple hit-and-run.

We finally get to meet KWON KI-SUB (Yoo Seung-ho), a loud-mouthed ne’er do-well who’s seen the sign at the accident site stating a reward for information and has come to give his two cents to the police. According to him it wasn’t a cab at all but an expensive foreign car, which goes directly against Soo-ah’s claims. He doesn’t hold up well under Detective Jo’s scrutiny which gives us the initial impression that he’s lying and just after a quick buck.

Ki-sub writes off Soo-ah like she’s a complete invalid, making her eyeless testimony sound silly compared to his two-eyed testimony. Just when we think his account holds no water, we see him mysteriously stalked down deserted streets by Myung-jin. Either he’s been chosen as a random victim, or he knows something that our psychopath doesn’t want told.

Here’s the thing about our psychopath – he’s sloppy. The director tries to light him creepily (it’s akin to the effect you’d get if you put a flashlight under your chin), but he seems sort of new to the game. He manages to chase Ki-sub down and give him a brick to the head, though he’s prevented from bashing Ki-sub’s skull in a second time by the noise of a neighbor nearby. Once again, his crimes are subverted by a passerby, which makes me think he’s a killer that just gets really lucky when he manages to nab his victims.

It’s a bit of a logic fail that Myung-jin lacks the time to hit Ki-sub a second time, yet has the time to hide him in a pile of garbage. Either way, Ki-sub is found and taken to the hospital, which Soo-ah becomes aware of due to the fact that she couldn’t get him off of her mind and kept trying to reach him before the assault.

We pretty much knew from the first moment Ki-sub appeared that he’d be a new little brother to Soo-ah and a form of redemption for the guilt she carries. The movie makes sure that we know it by inserting scenes here and there that literally spell out the connection, changing Ki-sub’s face into her brother’s face and back again. It’s unnecessarily heavy-handed in its attempts to drive the message home, simply because we get it. The same heavy-handedness comes to play again in the climax of the film and while not solely responsible for the anticlimactic nature of the climax, these kind of scenes do tend to treat the audience as though we’re incapable of gleaning Soo-ah’s motivation in caring for the errant Ki-sub.

Luck strikes again for our killer, who managed to find one of Soo-ah’s notebooks she dropped in the car with her name and number. He calls her to torment her, and she remains calm as she urges him to turn himself in. His flippant demeanor over the phone allows her to guess that he’s killed before, and when he tells her that he can see her (he can’t, but he knows she can’t tell either way), she finally becomes frightened and makes a beeline back to the hospital for Ki-sub.

He treats her coldly as usual, unwilling to give her the time of day or care that she’s scared out of her wits. She’s less concerned about herself and more concerned that the killer will come to get Ki-sub again – and for good reason, because Myung-jin is waiting for her in the hospital. Ki-sub won’t have it and remains a brat.

However, things change when both she and Ki-sub end up on two different sides of the subway. Once he sees Soo-ah being followed by the killer, he frantically calls her, telling her to plug her earphones in and turn the call to video so he can see through her phone’s camera.

It results in the most tense and compelling scene of the film, marking a complete 180 in Ki-sub’s demeanor when he realizes his new noona is actually in danger. It’s almost a shame for the rest of the film that this scene is so good, because the extended finale showdown doesn’t manage to top it.

Myung-jin need only put on his Psychopath Hoodie to begin the chase scene, where Soo-ah must rely on Ki-sub’s voice to guide her on how to escape in an eerily empty subway station. Using her phone camera Ki-sub instructs her on whether to go left or right, when she can run freely or when she can’t, as she’s relentlessly pursued by our scalpel-wielding mad doctor.

He even gets a “Here’s Johnny!” moment as she tries to escape via elevator, and manages to inject her with a sedative before her seeing eye dog intervenes and attacks him. Ki-sub is startled when the camera reveals a scalpel and blood spatter, only it isn’t Soo-ah’s, it’s her dog’s.

Soo-ah is able to escape, but her loyal dog isn’t as lucky. Their shared experience marks a turn in her and Ki-sub’s relationship, as he suddenly goes from bratty and childish to responsible and caring little brother. It’d be nice if they could have fleshed out their relationship a little more since the basics were there, but with his turn coming past the halfway mark there just wasn’t enough time.

We only get the tail end of how the police are involving themselves, now guided by Ki-sub’s ability to point out the make and model of Myung-jin’s expensive foreign car. Speaking of expensive, we get brief flashes into Myung-jin’s life as a doctor in a typically nice-looking doctor’s office, then we cut to him performing what looks like a really shady abortion in a big empty black space, aka the creepiest operating room ever (seeing as it isn’t even a room). So many shots are creepy for the sake of creepy, and that was just one of those shots that fell under the Tries Too Hard tab.

With the police on the case, Detective Jo sends Soo-ah and Ki-sub off for a little R&R until they catch the killer, along with a cop for added protection. He goes searching for every foreign car that fits Ki-sub’s description, which lands him in a secluded basement filled only with flickering lights. We all know what that means.

He’s sent Ki-sub with Soo-ah as more of a guardian, so it’s cute that Ki-sub only has eyes for his noona from here on out. They end up at Soo-ah’s orphanage where he gets to meet Mom and see the device Mom has been trying and failing to give Soo-ah throughout the film – one that vibrates when objects are near, and one that proves useful to her later on.

Of course, Mom is taking the kids out for the night, leaving Soo-ah and Ki-sub alone at the orphanage. They get a little time to bond before Myung-jin reaches the scene, having tracked down Soo-ah’s whereabouts via cursory internet searches.

The detective guarding them becomes useless, so it’s up to Ki-sub and Soo-ah to fight off a crazed killer who’s apparently superhuman zombie with nine lives with the pleasure of hunting his prey in a predictably empty and creepy orphanage during a dark and stormy night. Sound familiar? It is, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, only none of the familiar territory is really presented in a new and interesting way.

The idea of an inhumanly strong killer in thriller movies isn’t new (which is why I’m a firm believer that the “Double Tap” rule from Zombieland be applied when one is hunted down by a psychopath), but this killer is so lucky that even after being beaten, burned, and then smashed in the head, he still has the wherewithal and energy to kick down locked doors to try and rape our heroine.

He just wasn’t a good villain throughout the film, and seemed far too brazen to have flown under the radar for as long as he did. However, he’s completely dehumanized in the final act and does the movie a grand disservice. We may have gotten some interesting scenarios to test Soo-ah’s mettle from him, but the finale loses some of its bite when our heroine is essentially fighting a caricature.

There weren’t huge structural errors as far as the plot went, however contrived most of the circumstances tended to be. We also had some missed opportunities that became evident once Soo-ah began to use her considerable wits to plunge the orphanage into darkness, and the screen would go dark depending on whether a match was lit or not. Instead of that, we saw hints of what could have been used to great effect had the director tried to give us pieces of the scene through Soo-ah’s lack of sight, so that like her, we would only be able to hear the killer’s whereabouts. It would have worked well to put the audience firmly in her shoes.

Kim Haneul really did a bang-up job in portraying a blind character, and managed to be both vulnerable and cunning all at once. Her showdown with the killer might have packed more punch had he been fleshed out even a little, or played in a more capable actor’s hands. If he had a less important role it wouldn’t matter so much, but as the catalyst for most of the events in the film he was, quite frankly, a failure.

I don’t know whether I can call the constant reminder that Ki-sub is a stand-in for her dead brother symbolism when it fails to be symbolism and is just a glass case of emotion for our heroine. The opening scene was great in establishing the emotional turmoil that would inevitably haunt her later on, but when we literally get taken out of the final fight and to a soundstage (or rather, a vision) where Soo-ah is imagining that she’s saving her brother when she’s really saving Ki-sub, it all feels a bit much. It’d be preferable had her mentality stayed in the present, so that we were firmly shown that she cared for Ki-sub for himself, and not just because he reminds her of her missed chance to save her brother.

Even so, Ki-sub’s attempts to save noona from a crazy psychopath were endearing, though they lacked an emotional punch due to the underdevelopment of their relationship. Her heroism compounded with his heroism made for some heartwarming and thrilling moments even when logic took a complete backseat to the rest of the proceedings, and the two of them combined were certainly the main attraction here.

The bottom line: A well-acted mediocre stab at the thriller genre with potentially winning characters unfortunately painted in strokes that were far too broad for the emotional undercurrent the story tried to present. Kim Haneul puts in a stellar performance, though it’s not enough to save the film from a lack of coherent style and logic. Inoffensive, yet ultimately forgettable. 5/10.

 
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41 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. kdramallama

    Watched this on the plane to Korea and really enjoyed it!

    • 1.1 kent

      Really appreciate your movie reviews. I came across box office hit The king and the clown. It seems interesting but i dont get why was it such a hit.
      I was wondering if you have any views on that movie. I really want to understand what everybody does.
      Thanks.

  2. dany

    I saw this movie and it was really nice, except for the part when that creepy dude killed the dog! Kill anyone you want but not the dog!

    • 2.1 DaDa

      I know! That scene was so hard to watch. I wanted to cry so bad afterwards. :-(

    • 2.2 dooboo

      I stopped watching the movie after the dog died lol

      • 2.2.1 Sunshine

        i am so not watching! thanks to the review i am not gonna removing this from my list! any dog killer is not on my list to watch

      • 2.2.2 Meix2

        Ahh… so true, so true. When will directors/ writers learn?!
        I thought it was a pretty good film when I watched it but the (totally unnecessary) dog killing just completely tainted it for me.

    • 2.3 Arhazivory

      I was also bummed out that the dog died. :(

    • 2.4 kirst3n

      Ditto on that. Couldn’t help but wail “why the dog?!” at the screen when it happened.

    • 2.5 momosan

      Once it violated the puppy killing rule, I was done. OTOH, the dog was in Padam Padam, so at least she has a career going.

    • 2.6 NoRae

      wow, I think it’s weird being ok with raping and killing humans and not be ok with killing dogs =_=

      • 2.6.1 absolute

        exactly what i was thinking…whaaat? why aren’t people more upset about the rape and killing?

        • 2.6.1.1 Lorlena

          because we expect that in movies…and to be super cruel- you only form a real emotional bond with ppl you know or relate…on movies you expect gore when you watch a thriller/horror/action etc… but puppy or cat killing gets you- they are cute,remind you of a pet you had (or wanted) and you never ever expect a dog to die… or a cat- im a cat person- dont touch the kitties, kill the humans they are boring as hell…

      • 2.6.2 Zuanie

        yeah, not sure if they’re trying to be funny or just…

      • 2.6.3 JoAnne

        Same thoughts crossed my mind. It wasn’t unnecessary, either – the dog gave her life to protect her mistress. Since that was the only really close relationship she had at the time, it hit her hard. It moves the story along.

      • 2.6.4 momosan

        I have a fairly firm and longstanding rule about puppy killing. Only Bow got a recent exemption from the rule due to them being attack dogs that were busy trying to kill people. But basically, any drama or movie that gratuitously kills a dog, I’m gone.

        It’s been my experience over many years of movie and drama watching, that a show that kills a puppy on screen is just stooping to jerk the heartstrings of an audience and cover up other issues. Had stuck with this rule for Bad Guy, I’d have saved myself a lot of grief when that drama went south. The classic example of killing a dog for no particular narrative reason other than to try to hold the audience is Triple.

        In this instance, Blind was already suffering from logic fails on the part of the story, and killing the dog (who may be a pro at acting like a service dog but the script insulted my intelligence as a trainer when it exhibited major guide dog fail earlier in the movie), while it served the plot, was unnecessarily graphic and was used poorly.

        OTOH, if you go to see a cop movie, you rather expect crimes against other humans.

    • 2.7 ninsarama

      I was bawling during that scene. My parents were like “wtf is wrong with you?”

  3. tamy

    The start of this movie was promising. I enjoyed it till the scene where he was he was shown naked together with the girl he hit (it was SO unnecessary)after that i wasn’t even surprised that he was that stab/burn/shoot/hit/ but I be will forever alive type.
    I agree about the scene in subway it was the best.
    The worst scene in my opinion was where the villain killed dog. I still clearly remember him dying. I didn’t quite see a point in killing off dog. It was like – oh we don’t have a spare character which we can kill off but hey let’s use dog it will take less screen time (no need for funeral scene or long moping) and will be more dramatic plus we will show how bad the villain is (as if i didn’t get it earlier)

  4. Jess

    Anyone knows where to watch this online? I had been looking around for ages…

    • 4.1 nomu nomu nomu

      try dramacrazy.net. I watched it there.

    • 4.2 tarianant

      Dear Jess, please do your own sleuthing :) If someone give you a link on Dramabeans, a few days later that site will be shut down.

      • 4.2.1 Um.

        …Um, does it really matter that much? There’ve been links on other posts on here too. It’s just helpful, I guess. Fellow fans.

  5. Arhazivory

    I liked the movie (except when the dog died) although it did have some plot holes. Lovely review Heads. Thanks.

  6. malta

    Wasn’t planning on watching this one and probably still won’t. I find that these days I steer more and more away from the crime solving thriller genre because of this:

    “he likes to work naked, and he rapes his victims before killing them. Standard stuff.”

    They are so predictable with the most disturbing, gruesome, and disgusting things usually being done to a woman. Why?

    • 6.1 Noelle

      Maybe a deep rooted hate or maybe women make better victims or more believable victims then men. Either way, I’m over it.

  7. sherry_laruku

    Great review and analysis.. couldn’t agree more. The subway chase was intense, the best scene hands down! Other fave scene between detective jo and the killer in the secluded basement….

    Kim Ha Neul is brilliant here…

  8. daniela

    Kim Haneul made this movie a good one. Loved her here.

  9. Noelle

    Thank you for the review!

    I think they should of opened with her waking up maybe with some glimpses of a bad dream. I would rather have a feel for what happened then have it spelled out for me. The killer was just dumb. He didn’t make sense. So it’s easy to see that he wasn’t thought out and they just made him into a monster because it was easier. I also wished we got more time with Ki Sub.

  10. 10 MsB

    I liked this movie and was pleased with the ending! It was because of this that I learned to like Kim Haneul who I had never really seen in anything before. Once I finished this, I had to see others and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Paradise, another movie that is really good with Kim Haneul. Yes, the dog killing was brutal and over the stop but the guy was crazy!!

  11. 11 apple

    This movie was really good though! I really enjoyed it for what it was. It kept me on my toes and I bawled my eyes out when the dog died :(

  12. 12 canxi

    Anything that murderer did made me upset, honestly. The dog dying trying to save her owner just made me weep. I cried a lot during this movie because the antagonist was just sick and a lot of things that happened was just unfair.

    BUT, I’m glad the two made a family at the end. I thought that was very sweet and needed. I think what I enjoyed about the movie was that emotional undercurrent. It moved pretty quickly but I like how Kim & Yoo bonded and how they became siblings. Also liked how they portrayed blindness as more of an advantage rather than a disadvantage. There were times when she was understandably stuck but then there were many many times where she was just winning. I liked that it wasn’t all “She’s blind! Poor thing!”.

  13. 13 QT

    I watched this on the plane & I kinda like it except for the fact that its missing some element that could’ve made the movie better :D

    I cried when he killed the dog I mean why did he have to killed the dog & detective Jo is my favorite character in the movie

  14. 14 Ally

    its on youtube

  15. 15 ais

    I have to agree that the movie is mediocre… but I really like KHN’s acting on this one. She deserves the acting awards she bagged.

  16. 16 Amber

    You need to watch “Head”, it was fantastic.

  17. 17 Aria

    I actually loved this movie. You are right, acting is great and it’s a different take on a thriller. I saw this movie last year. It’s nice that you got to review it but 5 is a bit too much. Oh well!

  18. 18 gaika

    “….lands him in a secluded basement filled only with flickering lights. We all know what that means.”

    was interested on how you will describe that scene.
    what can i say… perfect

    thanks for the review, had fun reading it

  19. 19 Amaya

    I actually really liked this movie.

    Kim Haneul and Yoo Seungho were brilliant. I feel that the actors were trying to give depth to characters that weren’t written with any. It created an odd feeling at the halfway point of the movie, when everyone teams up against the killer.

    About the lack of gruesome scenes, I felt that the scene with the hooker was…..a bit intense. Maybe only because I really didn’t see it coming. I knew he’d kill her, but….

  20. 20 jomo

    Thanks for the reviewcap!
    I agree that it was ultimately forgettable despite some moments of cool!

    Love the subway shot. This is the 3rd version of this set up I have seen in Korean shows/films.
    From:
    An Affair starring Lee Jung Jae and Lee Mi Sook
    http://ieastasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/next-stepjust-outside-rio-de-janiero.jpg

    and from
    Man of Honor starring PMY and PIE
    http://i966.photobucket.com/albums/ae145/ockoala/Man%20of%20Honor/MOH6avi_000895862.jpg

  21. 21 Mary Ling

    Nothing upset me more than the dog being killed off. So sick and sad. Unfortunately, the subway station scene was the only worth watching part.

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