Korean culture has a tendency to veer away from the “hardcore” in all types of medium or genre. It is all about the superficial, the flash, and escapism. These are the characteristics that permeate Korean culture and I’m not even talking about it in the negative. It is just how Korean culture is. Introspectiveness or self-reflection is not something that is seen to be important.
And it hasn’t really been so for hundreds of years. At least, modern Korean culture looks pretty in a superficial way. You can give it that! Even going back two decades, it was all grungy, self-serious, but, at the same time, still very superficial in that “college freshmen philosophy major” kind of a way. In Korean cinema, this is reflected in the movies that are made for the mainstream audiences.
For a movie to succeed in targeting a wide audience, that movie HAS to become a hybrid which includes the standard Korea love story/melodrama for it to sell. In the past, Korean cinema just made straight love stories or melodramas. That genre of movies dominated the box office. However, for about a decade, those straight mainstays started to lose steam. In their places, there were attempts to make more niche “genre” movies. What the industry learned from these experiences was that Korean audiences really didn’t care for what lies at the core of those niche movie genres. They just wanted what they HAD before but just with a twist to hide the taste of blandness. So basically melodramas with a gimmick/twist. As a result, hybrid “pick a genre and shove in melodramas” movies make up the majority of the Korean box office.
The “thriller” part is kind of an overstatement though; it’s not that edgy compared to other Korean thrillers to date. I would say it’s more of a suspenseful mystery, since the viewers witness a few of the murders and we’re shown few details of the killer as they happen. The edge is always there, of course, with both detective Gun Woo and Ji Hwan chasing after the masked killer in their own time periods and trying to prevent accidents.
“Time Renegade” has a nice pace, although, at times, you’re kind of lost regarding when and how things happen. After a couple of meetings, detective Gun Woo and So Eun are totally into each other, plan out a date, and Gun Woo is distraught when So Eun goes missing. The link between Gun Woo and Ji Hwan — the whole point of the film — is introduced without much fanfare and they both completely accept that they can look into the minds of another man 30 years apart in time. No biggie.
Hong Si-wan, Seoul