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On Netflix: PSYCHOKINESIS (2018)

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PSYCHOKINESIS
(South Korea - 2018)

Written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho. Cast: Ryo Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Park Jung-Min, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Min-jae, Kim Yeong-seon, Tae Hang-ho, Yeon Hee-Hwang. (Unrated, 102 mins)

South Korean filmmaker and animator Yeon Sang-ho scored an instant cult favorite with 2016's TRAIN TO BUSAN, his live-action debut which managed to stand out and carve its own niche in the overcrowded and overplayed zombie apocalypse subgenre. Yeon's latest is the Netflix acquisition PSYCHOKINESIS, and while it's nice that he didn't simply crank out a retread of BUSAN, you'd think he would've offered something other than a belated mash-up of HANCOCK and PUSH (quick--when's the last time you thought of either of those movies?). Irresponsible, borderline oafish security guard Seok-hyeon (Ryo Seung-ryong) unwittingly acquires superhuman abilities after drinking water from a mountain spring near a test rocket crash site. His powers manifest in his ability to move objects with his mind and direct them with his hands and body. As he gradually trains himself to manage his newfound gift, he gets reacquainted with his estranged daughter Ru-mi (Shim Eun-kyung, also in TRAIN TO BUSAN), with whom he hasn't spoken in the ten years since he divorced her mother (Kim Yeong-seon) and walked out on his family. Ru-mi's mother has died from a head injury sustained in an attempt to forcibly evict them from their small but popular fried chicken restaurant located in a declining area desired for gentrification and renewal by the powerful Taesun Corporation, who have hired local enforcer Mr. Min (Kim Min-jae) and his thuggish crew to force everyone out. As Seok-hyeon and Ru-mi tentatively rebuild their fractured relationship, he will of course use his powers of telekinesis to take on Min's goons and bring them to justice for the death of his ex-wife.






PSYCHOKINESIS tries to score a few points with its easy jabs corporate, profit-driven culture and the 24-hour cable news cycle, and it stays generally lighthearted, scoring a handful of legitimately good laughs, especially when a hapless Min tries to convince the cops via smartphone footage that Seok-hyeon managed to take on all of his men at once. But it's so slight and forgettable that it's easy to see why Netflix acquired it--it fits right in with the bulk of their instantly disposable movie offerings. It also doesn't seem to follow its own logic or use Seok-hyeon's powers wisely. When Taesun digs into his past and has him arrested for pilfering coffee packets and toilet paper from his employer's stock room, Seok-hyeon spends the entire afternoon handcuffed before deciding to use his powers to remove them and break out of his cell. Why wouldn't he do that right away? Because the plot mandates that he be somewhere else long enough for Taesun to send Min and his guys to go in and demolish the entire neighborhood while he's away and can't stop them. When Seok-hyeon finally escapes, he pinballs around the city, flying through the air and then hovering above and around like a greenscreen homage to Danny Glick.


The crummy effects also figure in when Yeon really bungles a major climactic moment where Seok-hyeon saves Ru-mi's life. It's difficult to tell who the target audience is for PSYCHOKINESIS. It's goofy enough that younger audiences might enjoy it but it's got enough F-bombs that it must be for adults. Granted, we're not talking KICK-ASS here, but it's enough to warrant an R rating if it was in theaters. Ultimately, the biggest impression left by PSYCHOKINESIS is a too-brief performance by a grinning, scene-stealing Jung Yu-mi (also in TRAIN TO BUSAN) as ruthless Taesun CEO Director Hong. She doesn't appear until an hour in and only has a couple of scenes, but she absolutely owns it from the moment she walks into a lunch meeting with Min and exclaims "Whoa! Fuck!" in English. Everything that comes out of Director Hong's mouth and her smirking, sarcastic, bitch-on-wheels demeanor are enough to conclude that PSYCHOKINESIS would've been significantly better if Jung was in it more.



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