The aging hitman Ji Hyeong-do (Ji-seob So) in the slipshod Korean thriller “A Company Man” is pulled in two directions: to his work and his blossoming love for pop singer turned single mom Yoo Mi-yeon (Mi-yeon Lee). With years of contract killing at his back, Ji is a liability. His bosses Gwon Jong-tae (Do-won Kwak) and Chairman Jeon (Gook-hwan Jeon) try to send him into early retirement.
Sadly, it’s not that simple for viewers. In fact, they’ll be pulled in at least six different directions. I won’t name all here, but by turns, “A Company Man” is an action thriller, a surreal mystery, and a romantic comedy. It does each genre well exactly once in its two hour running time. The opening is a breakneck bloodbath that ends with a satisfying twist. Two hapless detectives on Ji’s tale talk to one of his subordinates while, behind them, a man driving a forklift chases another who’s pelting him with trash. Most of the romantic comedy falls flat, but the noodle shop scene is a tender, strange sequence that will make you wonder what could have been.
On their own, each of these elements have their moment. Between those moments, on the other hand, borders on nonsensical. Director Sang-yoon Lim has this awful habit of breaking momentum wherever possible. For example, the best fight scene in the movie (involving a pairing knife and a rolled up calendar) shoots itself in the foot in the last 30 seconds. What’s frustrating is that it only took one misplaced cut to do that.
The editing in general is where most of this stems from. Well, that and the music. The horrible, generic blockbuster music. An intense, well-orchestrated action scene set to thrumming bass could, by “A Company Man’s” logic, follow a hokey “prepping for a date” montage accented by Muzak. To call that willingness to pander jarring would be an understatement.
At the end of the day, it can’t figure out what kind of movie it wants to be. Sometimes, though, it finds a unique identity somewhere between Quentin Tarantino and “I Saw the Devil” director Kim Jee-Woon. These glimpses of a half-baked crime thriller just make the whole thing sadder. When you get great scenes in a sea of bad ones, interesting plots surrounded by contrived ones, the bad stuff gets overwhelming. If “A Company Man” committed to its quirks and abandoned the excess, it could have been something special. As it is, all it deserves is a pink slip.