J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Take Point: Action Under the DMZ


You know things are bad in the DPRK if the Grand Poobah himself wants to defect. In this thriller set three or four years in the future, the “Supreme Leader” is aptly known as “King.” Whether he really wants to defect or not is uncertain, but “Ahab,” a South Korean mercenary, is determined to bring him back safely regardless. It will take a bold move to prevent a catastrophic war and Ahab is just the guy to make it in Kim Byung-woo’s Take Point (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles and next Friday in New York.

Ahab and his seedy team of mercs are lethally effective, but as foreign nationals, they can be easily disavowed. That is why Agent Mackenzie frequently subcontracts their services. However, this gig was always going to messy and it just got a whole lot more complicated. Ahab’s crew ensconced themselves in the secret tunnels under the DMZ, waiting to whisk away a high-ranking official who supposedly wants to defect. The game gets exponentially more serious when King shows up in his place. Maybe he wants to defect or maybe he doesn’t. Either way, Ahab and his men can collect the enormous bounty on King’s head if they bring him in alive.

The initial snatch and grab proceeds surprisingly smoothly, but everything soon goes down twisted thereafter. It seems Ahab and King were set up by elements in the North Korean government loyal to China, who want to take over the DPRK and embarrass the American government, especially Pres. McGregor, whose re-election numbers have been in freefall. He might end up hoisted on his own Wag-the-Dog petard, unless Ahab and his crew can deliver the wounded King to the rendezvous point. Things look really bad for the colorful mercs, but Ahab finds an unlikely ally in Yoon Ji-ui, King’s personal physician.

Politically speaking, Take Point (the title is a command and also maybe a place) is about as cynical as a film can get. Everyone is betraying everyone else, so you can’t accuse it of playing favorites, but it is safe to say there is some serious moral equivalency going on here. At least there is also some slam bang action as well. Kim really puts poor Ahab through the wringer and paints him into a corner. His prosthetic leg takes more of a beating than the one the Rock sports in Skyscraper.

As Ahab, Ha Jung-woo is a terrific world-weary, beat-to-heck anti-hero. It is also a good deal of fun watching him play off American thesps Jennifer Ehle and Malik Yoba, as Mackenzie and Gerald, Ahab’s field lieutenant. Of course, it is obvious Ahab’s righthand man Markus is questionable, because he is played by Kevin Durand at his shiftiest.

Scurrying through all those underground tunnels could potentially get tedious, but Kim keeps the energy cranked out and the close-quarters combat easy to follow. You have to give him and the stunt team credit, because they keep raising the stakes and topping themselves, every step of the way. Recommended for the action spectacle (rather than as any sort of coherent political statement), Take Point opens tomorrow (1/27) at the CGV Theatres in LA and Buena Park and next Friday (1/4) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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