Movie review: The Point Men (NC16)
This thriller is inspired by the real events of 2007, when a group of South Korean visitors in Afghanistan were taken hostage by the Taliban.
Diplomat Jeong Jae-ho (Hwang Jung-min) is sent to Kabul to negotiate, but finds himself out of his depth. He calls on Park Dae-sik (Hyun Bin), a special agent who has embedded himself with the locals. While the clock ticks, the duo try every trick to free the prisoners.
The Point Men gets the big question out of the way first: What were 23 South Korean men and women doing in an Afghan province still racked by fighting? Jeong slaps his forehead in disbelief when he finds out why, as will viewers.
But even if the hostages seem to be less than ideal victims, duty comes first for the civil servant. He sets off, overcoming barriers of language, culture and a suicide bomber or two.
This story could have been much better served as a political thriller infused with black comedy if it had stayed with the dogged Jeong, the sweaty straight arrow thrust into an underworld filled with sweet-talking scammers eager to get hold of the millions in ransom they think he holds.
Enter Korean star Hyun Bin as the superspy who is part Jason Bourne, part Lawrence Of Arabia (a rugged man needs a rugged landscape, you see) and all action man. Once the first close-up of his sun-bronzed cheekbones happens, there is the sinking feeling that the film will get Tom Cruise’d. That is, become a vehicle for much charismatic running, squinting and trick motorcycle riding.
That certainly happens, but if viewers can get past the shoehorned-in action bits and twitchy plot twists – as well as its cliched depiction of Islamic radicals, which in 2023 feels wrong – there is at least enough visual candy here to sustain interest.
Hot take: A real hostage crisis has become fodder for an action movie. The consolation is the production has the budget to make it look good.
Verdict: 3 stars
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