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Review: Sluggish South Korean crime drama 'The Negotiation' fails to create sparks

Review: Sluggish South Korean crime drama 'The Negotiation' fails to create sparks
Hyun Bin, right, in the movie "The Negotiation." (CJ Entertainment)

Marked by its lack of intensity, the South Korean crime drama “The Negotiation” stars Son Ye-Jin as no-nonsense Seoul police inspector Ha Chae-youn, who specializes in defusing hostage situations, and Hyun Bin as charming arms dealer Min Tae-gu. Laden by melodramatic turns and an exposition-heavy last act, the slack programmer never develops into the thriller it aspires to be.

Chae-youn, shaken by a failed intervention that results in a young woman dying in her arms, attempts to resign from the force but is instead summoned to headquarters, where she’s thrust into a video chat with Min. As the Korean military bears down on Min’s compound on an island in the Straits of Malacca where he is allegedly holding captives, Chae-youn is tasked with finding out his demands.

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“The Negotiation” unravels from the inside out, lurching from improbable to implausible to just plain ridiculous, and writer-director’s Lee Jong-Suk’s by-the-book filmmaking does little to raise the stakes.

There’s supposed to be sexual tension between Chae-youn and Min, but a decided lack of chemistry is exacerbated by the fact that they are interacting through a variety of monitors. Though both leads are attractive, Son’s straight-arrow negotiator feels stuck in two gears, placid and mildly shocked, while Hyun registers more as a sadistic game-show host than a terrorist, introducing new hostages like so many reluctant contestants, and never at a level to be any fun.

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‘The Negotiation’

In Korean with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Playing: CGV Cinemas Los Angeles; CGV Buena Park 8

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