Hwang Jung-min plays the hired killer In-Nam in Deliver Us from Evil.

Deliver Us from Evil

Dept. of Habitual Sin


The story is an old one. Tried and tested and true. A contract killer who is looking to retire after one last job is pursued by a rabid psychopath hell-bent on revenge. It is familiar, a little formulaic, and occasionally tropey, but none of that matters, because Deliver Us from Evil is a stonking good time at the cinema.

In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) is a man who just wants out. Miserable and lonely, his only solace is at the bottom of a bottle. He is tired of the killing game, and is on the cusp of cashing out and moving to Panama (he even sent away for brochures), when his past suddenly comes a-knocking.

When a former lover is brutally murdered and her nine-year old daughter kidnapped by a child smuggling syndicate in Thailand, In-nam is forced to put his plans on hold in order to save her. Making his life harder is Ray (Lee Jung-jae), the raging sibling of his last hit, an unsympathetic, knife-wielding maniac who is willing to journey to the ends of the Earth (or, in this case, Bangkok) in order to kill him.

Just chilling after a brutal takedown.

The movie opens with a moody sequence in which In-nam ruthlessly and efficiently despatches his latest target, a Yakuza leader infamous for brutalising women. This pre-title episode tells us everything we need to know about our protagonist. He is a capable and unsparing operator with a “special set of skills.” He is disturbingly calm. He is uncomfortably silent. And with his choice of target, the movie wants us to believe that In-nam is a killer with a conscience.

It is clear what writer/director Hong Won-chan’s inspirations are, and Deliver Us from Evil doesn’t try to pretend otherwise. This is the story of a man, who is driven by a quiet rage, and haunted by a past that he has spent most of his life trying to escape. He isn’t looking for redemption, He just wants a little peace before he dies.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

The obvious comparisons here are with John Wick, Taken, and The Equalizer. But unlike those movies, which are relentlessly edited to keep you fevered and gasping, director Hong finds the time to let his movie breathe. This is as much a character piece as it is an action movie. Yes, there is extensive bloodshed, unrelenting cruelty, and some highly improbable action arrangements, but Deliver Us from Evil also makes sure that you’re emotionally invested in these characters so you feel every gunshot and knife wound.

Watching this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of John Irvin’s 1997 neo-noir crime thriller City of Industry. There is a similarity in tone, pacing, and colour palate, but it’s in the way both directors frame their respective cities, using them to invoke a sense of danger and claustrophobia, that triggered a sense of déjà vu.

Director Hong knows how to make the most of the space around him. So much so that every action sequence is vivid and suspenseful, whether it’s a knife fight in a narrow corridor, or a shoot out in a stairwell, or a car chase through the streets of Bangkok. His camera is constantly moving, thereby creating a real kineticism to the carnage on-screen.

Hwang Jung-min plays the hired killer In-Nam in Deliver Us from Evil.

Another reason Deliver Us from Evil works so well is because of its two leads. Both Hwang Jung-min and Lee Jung-jae have fantastic chemistry. (The both of them had previously worked together in the 2013 crime drama New World.) Every one of their almost wordless encounters are punctuated by some incredibly savage and sophisticated set pieces, in which they are equally matched, both intellectually and physically.

Both men make for truly compelling characters. Each one chewing the scenery in their own way. They are immensely watchable by themselves, but every one of their brawls will leave you winded and wheezing.

It's a staring contest. First one who blinks, dies!

Intensely atmospheric, unyieldingly violent, and remarkably self-aware, Deliver Us from Evil is a movie that reminds us that it isn’t the story, but rather how it’s told, that makes for a great movie.

Deliver Us from Evil
108 minutes
Director: Hong Won-chan
Writer: Hong Won-chan
Cast: Hwang Jung-min, Lee Jung-jae, Park Jung-min, Choi Hee-seo, Park Myoung-hoon, Oh Dae-hwan, and Shim Young-eun

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

Episode 21, Lovecraft Country, "Strange Case."
Previous Story

Goggler Presents #21: Lovecast Pedantry, Episode 5

Next Story

Dr. Jason Leong: Hashtag Blessed

Latest from Movie Reviews