An 80-year-old waiter with Alzheimer’s disease and a brain tumor, Han Pil-joo (Lee Sung-min), buries his wife and digs up a revolver that has lain in the ground for more than half a century. An elderly person has nothing to lose, children and grandchildren live separately and will do without an old man. The waiter makes tattoos in Japanese on his fingers with the names of future victims. During the Japanese occupation, five people destroyed the Han family. At a restaurant, a waiter has a trusting relationship with a young colleague, Park In-gu (Nam Joo-hyuk). Khan rents a Porsche and asks Puck to be his driver. A young man becomes an unwitting accomplice in a series of brutal murders of influential people.
“Remember” by Lee Il-hyun is a loose remake of Atom Egoyan’s 2015 film of the same name. In the original, a ninety-year-old man with dementia, played by Christopher Plummer, escaped from a nursing home and listened to the instructions of a wheelchair-bound friend (Martin Landau) in order to get revenge on Nazi collaborators. If in Egoyan’s picture the theme of the Holocaust was in the foreground, then the Korean author is interested in the times of the Japanese occupation, not so familiar to the European audience, but painful in the history of the director’s homeland. In the new film, the elderly avenger has an unwitting partner, a representative of another generation, who knows little about the events of more than half a century ago. For Khan, the primary task is to kill the offenders, but at the same time, the experienced waiter teaches the young colleague a lesson in history. The central role is played not by an elderly actor, as was the case with Plummer, but by a fifty-five-year-old made-up Lee Sung-min.
The Korean version is full of car chases, shootouts and side crime showdowns, and therefore stretches for more than two hours. The dynamics of individual scenes is leveled by prolonged timing. Egoyan’s picture was distinguished by the excellent acting work of Plummer and Landau and the script verified to the smallest detail with an unpredictable ending. You can safely watch the Korean analogue, knowing the plot of the Canadian film – the remake has enough native flavor, but few twists.
The trouble is that the unhurried rhythm of the original “Remember” allowed you to immerse yourself in the problems of the picture and almost interactively become a participant in the events, while the Asian tape travels quickly, skipping important stops. Both films raise important themes about the traumas of the past that cannot be forgotten, the importance of forgiveness, and the statute of limitations for crimes. Firstly, as we know from many pictures, revenge does not make anyone better and only destroys a person, for whom it becomes the only meaning of life. The Korean film smooths out the collision, since the main role is a weak old man on the verge of death, and notorious bastards who have not suffered any punishment and have lived in clover for decades become the victims of Khan. The director has enough tact not to unambiguously take the side of the elderly avenger, but there can be no sympathy for the offenders of the waiter – these are one-dimensional villains, for whom, according to all the canons, the audience should not feel compassion and pity.
Another interesting question is: does a crime have a statute of limitations? Barely living old people often sit in the dock of the Hague Tribunal, in whom it is difficult to discern cruel murderers. In prison, elderly criminals will not live even a year; in fact, the court sentences the perpetrators to death. In “Remember” the topic is touched upon tangentially: the police and the authorities of the country turned a blind eye to the events of the middle of the century and forgot about them. The situation is painfully familiar, but hardly justifies lynching. Of course, it is useful for any nation to deal with the demons of the past and put a bullet in difficult processes when people were divided into executioners and victims, but Lee Il-hyun goes into a pure genre, where unnecessary dilemmas harm entertainment. There is a good old man who takes revenge for the whole family: during the Japanese occupation, due to betrayal, Khan was left without a father, mother, brother and sister. And there are cardboard enemies who are not supposed to give a word. Liam Neeson usually finds himself in such situations.
Korean painting is meant to entertain. Painful episodes from the history of the country become an important background and nothing more. Adding to the originality of Lee Il-hyun’s film is a funny couple of waiters. Old and young are driving around in Porsches and teasing each other cutely. There is a risk of forgetting what goal the elderly avenger is pursuing. But in “Remember” you can see the cute features of the buddy movie, have fun and close your eyes to the predictable plot.