Seoul Vibe is fun, vibrant, and full of action-packed nostalgia.
This review of the South Korean Netflix film Seoul Vibe does not contain spoilers.
It is 1988, and the great city of Seoul is riding a high of democratic freedom. Trends from the West are pouring in. The latest fashions, McDonald’s, and cold glass bottles of Coca-Cola. And while Disco is still a decade late in the Land of Morning Calm, the latest crazes have taken over the city. Mainly by the twenty-somethings who fought for a free government. That is the backdrop of the latest Korean action-comedy, Seoul Vibe, a funny and vibrant film that is comfortable in its skin.
Directed by Hyun-Sung Moon (As One) and written by Sua Shin (Commitment) tells the story of the Sanggye Supreme Team. Led by Dong-Wook (Yoo Ah-in), Woo-sam (Ko Gyung-pyo), Joon-gi (Ong Seong-wu), Bak-nam (Lee Kyu-Hyung, and Yoon-hee (Park Ju-hyon), love their drifts and cool riffs as they drive around the city. Dong-wook and Joon-gi helped drive crates of illegal guns around Saudi Arabia before returning to their beloved Seoul. They see much has changed since letting freedom ring. South Korea, once a militarized government, is now a democracy.
Dong-wook sees his car in the shop and is about to let that baby purr when Prosecutor Ahn (Oh Jung-se) and his team approach him. He wants the team to win a secret race for some gangsters. They are run by Ms. Kang (Moon So-ri) and The General (Baek Hyun-jin). The outfit launders money around the city. He will grant them all visas to the United States if they do. This is all around when Seoul is hosting the 1988 Olympic games. Ahn feels a big score is happening around the opening day ceremony.
Seoul Vibe is unapologetically sincere in how Moon captures a fish out of water tale, but the group is in the same fresh lake they have always been in. Fun, even dorky, and ultra-cool, this young group of men and one strong woman have wonderful chemistry together. The banter and interactions between them drive them to film, pun intended, as a way to build the feel of a community of a new generation. The film’s humor is amusing, and the action can be eye-rolling, but the film’s overall vibe captures the feel of the city on the brink of change. Albeit in more of a cartoonish, colorful live-action comic strip way that I was not anticipating.
Seoul Vibe tries awfully hard to be a light version of The Fast and the Furious but lightens the mood as the viewer revels in 80s retro nostalgia. The cast is energetic and engaging. While the film is not a total success — the main character is fascinated by fences made of plastic when he could just run through them, and it is a good 20 minutes too long — Hyun Sung Moon’s film has an addictive quality that cannot be ignored.
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