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Review: Korean disaster flick ‘Exit’ raises rock-climbing slacker to hero

Cho Jung-seok, ‘Exit’
Cho Jung-seok in the movie “Exit.”
(CJ Entertainment)

Vertigo-inducing set pieces help shape Korean disaster movie “Exit” and its distinctive threat into a simplistically digestible and ultimately predictable big-budget outing with a slight edge.

Blatantly broad about its melodramatic ambitions, director Lee Sang-Geun’s high-stakes saga sees self-appointed loser Yong-Nam (Cho Jung-Seok), a single and unemployed millennial, evolve into a paladin when the going gets deathly tough. What he is missing in career direction, he compensates for in rock climbing competence.

To safeguard his less than harmonious family — and Eui-Ju (Lim Yoona), the love interest who previously friend-zoned him — from the rapidly propagating toxic gas unleashed by your standard mad scientist, the heroic underdog exploits both smarts and physical strength to reach various rooftops. Throughout the ordeal, however, action upstages romance giving Eui-Ju agency in saving her own life.

Social media’s wide reach and the ubiquitous access to advanced drones move the plot forward in somewhat credible fashion sharing with the supporting cast the same uneasiness the viewer endures watching the two main actors’ stunts, even if aware that superb VFX are their bases. Nothing to reproach in terms of production value from Sang-Geun, everything is grand in the way Korean cinema has recurrently shown it can deliver for its own market.

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Stripped of the spectacle, “Exit” is just another sappy story of an insecure boy trying to impress a girl. It’s a trite commodity embellished by genre, which is an honorable thing to be. Surely the destination is evident, but the adventure, like the route finding what Yong-Nam needs in life, offers some amusing hurdles.

‘Exit’
In Korean with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Starts August 2, CGV Los Angeles, CGV Buena Park

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