J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Traffickers: Organs to Go

Where can you go for a no-questions-asked organ transplant? If you said China, you win a free kidney, symbolically speaking of course. However, the dodgy McHospital Yu-ri’s father has been referred to has a strict bring-your-own-organs (BYOO) policy. Young-gyu’s gang is supposed to take care of all the messy parts during the passage over, but things kind of get out of hand in Kim Hong-sun’s Traffickers (trailer here), which Well Go USA released today on DVD and BluRay.

Young-gyu used to be Korea’s top trafficker in human organs until an incident led to the very public death of his intended victim and his young protégé. From then on, he scraped by as a conventional contraband smuggler. Unfortunately, when his latest shipment is served up to the police, Young-gyu has no choice but get the old gang back together for another score.

Unbeknownst to her, Yu-ri is Young-gyu’s new client. Having arranged through a broker to have a brand-spanking new heart meet her father at the Chinese hospital, Yu-ri only knows Young-gyu as the strange man who sometimes initiates awkward, vaguely threatening conversations. The truth is the smuggler has fallen in love with the ticket agent during the considerable time he spends in the port, but being a smooth talking seducer is not one of his many faults.

While onboard the slow boat to China, Yu-ri helps the newlywed Sang-ho search for his missing wheelchair-bound wife Chae-hee. Obviously, she has not given much thought to where her father’s new heart will come from, but desperation can lead to short-sightedness. There will also be further coincidences linking the fateful circle of passengers.

Frankly, the premise of Traffickers is a little forced, especially given the substantiated allegations of state-sponsored organ harvesting in prison camps (why risk attracting outside attention when you can simply order up a heart from a prisoner of conscience?). Kim and co-screenwriter Kim Sang-myung go with it nonetheless, focusing on humanity at its most distressed, building to (yeah, yeah, yeah, mild spoilerish alert) a real downer of an ending. Yet, somehow the film is still quite entertaining to watch.

Functioning as sort of a riff on The Lady Vanishes, Traffickers features several tense near misses and a great action show down. A supporting player who shall remain nameless also pulls off a massively effective character swerve, earning unrestrained audience loathing. For his part, Im Chang-jung broods solidly as the world weary Young-gyu. As usual, Oh Dal-su adds plenty of vinegary grit as Young-gyu’s soused saw-bones. Although deliberately stiff at first, Yo Joon-hee turns it up down stretch as Yu-ri.

So yes, organ trafficking is a bad business, no matter how you might get involved with it. Kim capitalizes on the claustrophobic ship’s setting rather adroitly and keeps the pace distractingly brisk. Just about the entire narrative fails the logic test in retrospect, but viewers really won’t notice in the moment. Recommended for those who enjoy dark thrillers, Traffickers is now available on DVD, BluRay, and digital platforms from Well Go USA. 

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