The Korean movie Psychokinesis is available to stream on Netflix beginning April 25th.
By Seongyong Cho
What if an ordinary guy suddenly got superpowers? The South Korean film Psychokinesis seems ready to do something different with that familiar premise at first, but it never comes to fruition due to an uneven mix of fantasy, comedy, and melodrama. While there are a few cool moments that amuse, the movie is rather unimaginative and predictable, hampered by its thin plot and rote characterization. I found myself losing patience from time to time despite its short running time (101 minutes).
How the protagonist gets his power is pretty simple. When Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong) goes to a nearby mountain one morning, something falls from the sky and a mysterious substance quickly seeps into a fountain that Seok-heon drinks from. Several hours later, his body changes, and then he comes to realize that he can now move things at will.
Seok-heon simply regards his new ability as a tool for earning easy money. After mastering his gift a bit more, he goes to a nightclub to be hired as a magician, and he is instantly offered a gig after he presents his ‘magic’ to the manager.
The movie also focuses on his estranged daughter Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung), who is not too pleased happy to see her father again because she still remembers well when he left. She and her mother worked hard since he left them, and things went well for a while as their fried chicken shop became successful (as shown in the opening scene), but then they and other small businesses in their neighborhood get threatened by a big company which is about to redevelop the area. The company hires a bunch of goons, and Roo-mi’s mother is killed.
Despite feeling guilty about this tragedy, Seok-heon is not eager to get involved in the messy situation, but, of course, he demonstrates his power when those thugs come again. That is just the beginning of what he is going to do to protect them. At one point, he gathers many objects together for making a barricade for them, and that certainly impresses everyone including Jeong-hyeon (Park Jung-min), a young lawyer who has been trying to help Roo-mi and her neighbors and, yes, has also had some feelings toward Roo-mi.
Now, this looks like a promising setup for whatever may follow, but the screenplay by director Yeon Sang-ho fails to fully develop the ppotential this story. Seok-heon is not a very interesting character to watch, and his relationship with his daughter is conventional and clichéd to say the least. Yes, this is another typical story of a lousy father proving himself and his love to his daughter, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that he eventually wins her trust and affection back.
The movie later tries to be more serious when it pushes its characters into an obligatory climax, but it does not have enough dramatic weight to hold our attention. It is also superficial in handling notable social issues in the story. The final act is apparently inspired by the Yongsan Tragedy, a real-life incident which occurred in Seoul in 2009, and there is certainly some emotional impact to be felt by me and other South Korean viewers, but everything in that part is so conveniently resolved in the end that we are only left with a hollow impression during its overlong closing scene.
I give Psychokinesis a C+.