'Broken' proves to be a solid crime thriller

The Korean 'Broken' is a solid cat-and-mouse crime thriller that blurs lines between criminal and victim

The largely involving Korean crime thriller "Broken" finds earnest widower and textile factory employee Sang-Hyeon (Jung Jae-Young) in "Death Wish" mode when his daughter, middle school student Su-Jin, turns up brutally raped and murdered. Despite the workmanlike efforts of the local cops, led by conflicted detective Eok-Gwan (Lee Sung-Min), Sang-Hyeon considers vengeance his only recourse.

A kind of three-way game of cat-and-mouse ensues as Sang-Hyeon hunts down those involved in his daughter's demise while the cops try to stop the vigilante rampage. Intriguingly, the obsessed Sang-Hyeon is unaware the cops are pursuing him, and the case's elusive lead perpetrator has no idea the dead girl's father knows his whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Eok-Gwan, who's under investigation by internal affairs for his dubious role in another teen murder case — and clearly up for a bit of self-redemption — can't help but understand Sang-Hyeon's tactics as the lines blur between victim and criminal.

The film, based on a novel by Keigo Higashino, is written and directed by Lee Jung-Ho. For its first hour, "Broken" offers lots of tension and a gripping portrait of a father's grief. The second hour can't sustain its initial energy as story focus becomes diffused and an excess of mind's-eye flashbacks and time jumps cause a bit of narrative confusion.

Ultimately, though, the film's solid acting, relatable premise and strong emotional core carry the day. Note to American producers: With some smart reconfiguring, this loaded morality tale would be ripe for a star-driven stateside remake. Is Liam Neeson, uh, taken?

"Broken." No MPAA rating. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. In Korean with English subtitles. At CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles.

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