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The Executioner

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The Executioner

Sponsored by: CinéAsie & Korean Film Council

North american Premiere

  • South Korea 2009
  • 96 min
  • 35mm
  • Korean with English subtitles
Official Selection, Pusan International Film Festival 2009



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"A well-structured script and meaty characters... a cut above the norm for the genre" — Derek Elley, VARIETY


Director: Choi Jin-ho
Screenplay: Kim Yeong-ok-I
Cast: Cho Jae-hyun, Yoon Kye-sang, Park In-hwan, Cha Soo-yeon, Jo Sung-ha
Producers: Jo Seon-muk
Print Source: Mirovision

Part of...

Korean Cinema   

Korean Cinema



Rookie prison guard Jae-kyung (Yoon Kye-sang) wastes no time having his illusions shattered when he shows up for his first day on the job. Right off the bat, he is given the feeling he has bitten off more than he can chew. The initially enthusiastic and earnest young man is soon taught the harsh realities of the job by the tough and jaded veteran guard Jong-ho (Cho Jae-hyun), a hard, joyless man who believes that violence is the only answer when dealing with vicious criminals. Although they’re polar opposites, the two men slowly develop a deep bond, with Jong-ho teaching his new protégé how to survive in the jungle of a prison, while the younger man finds himself taking his senior under his wing in the outside world, helping the lonely man develop social skills. The two men find their world turned upside down by the arrival of a serial killer who has shocked the nation with his heinous crimes. Public outrage is so great that the government decides to re-activate the death penalty and execute a group of prisoners. The two guards and one of their colleagues are chosen to carry out the sentence—and their lives will never be the same.

Is it ever right to take a life, no matter the circumstances? That is the subject matter of THE EXECUTIONER, South Korea’s first film shot in an actual prison. South Korea has not had an execution since 1997, but the death penalty is still in effect in that country. First time director Choi Jin-ho delivers a poignant and thought-provoking drama by exploring this situation, not from the eyes of the condemned but rather from the experiences of the guards, and in so doing manages to sidestep every cliché of the prison/death-sentence drama. The script is surprisingly even-handed in tackling its highly complex and emotional subject matter. There are no easy answers, no question of right or wrong. The characters in the film, guards and prisoners alike, are presented as real human beings, simultaneously funny, angry, sad and confused, but above all else marvelously flawed. Every single actor in this film delivers a rock-solid performance. THE EXECUTIONER is a powerful and moving work that will gnaw at you long after you have left the theatre.

—Robert Guillemette

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