By Dave B.
Illang: The Wolf Brigade (Netflix) is a Korean-language action film that takes place in 2029 on the eve of the reunification of North and South Korea. The peninsula finds itself besieged by sanctions imposed by China, Japan, Russia, and the United States as the four powers engage in a regional war. South Korea is beset by terrorists who oppose reunification with the North and, while blending in with ordinary protesters, frequently attack security forces. The government has created an elite force, the Wolf Brigade, to restore order. However, the Brigade is caught in a labyrinthine plot orchestrated by a rival security agency. Will they be able to fight their way out of it and protect their country? Or will their brute force tactics be overwhelmed by a plan that’s been years in the making?
The truth is, many of the most entertaining action films of the past decade have been of South Korean origin. Illang tries to capitalize on trend with stylish action sequences. Unfortunately, it’s only marginally successful. The movie’s cinematography is excellent, bordering on phenomenal. It embraces the visual grittiness of an economically depressed South Korea and combines the scenery with beautiful setups for action sequences. The problem is that the action choreography itself isn’t top-notch. When compared to legendary action movies like The Villainess, Illang’s fight scenes occasionally seem downright amateurish. That’s not to say that all of Illang’s fights are bad. But most of them don’t compare to elite offerings in the action genre.
Furthermore, the plot is a mess. It’s difficult to make heads or tails of what is going on and who is planning on doing what and when. The reason for this is that Illang wants to present itself as having at complex conspiracy at its heart, when in fact, in revolves around a fairly straightforward powerplay. The confusing and unnecessary complexity in the movie could be easily ignored if the action were better, but it isn’t, so despite frequent fights, viewers are left on a rollercoaster cycle of expectation, followed by confusion, and ending in slight disappointment.
Hardcore action fans may be able to overlook Illang: The Wolf Brigade’s flaws, but most viewers will be left wondering if the 139 minutes they just spend watching the movie were worth it and for that reason, I can’t recommend it. Despite how beautifully it’s shot, none of its action, none of its performances, and nothing about its plot can justify its runtime of over two hours. Your time is better spent on something else.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.