Time Renegade (2016) Korean movie Review~시간이탈자 리뷰


시간이탈자 리뷰
Cast: Lim Soo-Jung, Cho Jung-Seok, and Lee Jin-Wook

You can do the “Timey-Whimey” to save a love one but can you use it to turn a movie into a chick romance?

Korean culture has a tendency to veer away from the “hardcore” in all types of medium or genre. It is all about the superficial, the flash, and escapism. These are the characteristics that permeate Korean culture and I’m not even talking about it in the negative. It is just how Korean culture is. Introspectiveness or self-reflection is not something that is seen to be important.

We sometimes rant about that fact but that is also just superficial

And it hasn’t really been so for hundreds of years. At least, modern Korean culture looks pretty in a superficial way. You can give it that! Even going back two decades, it was all grungy, self-serious, but, at the same time, still very superficial in that “college freshmen philosophy major” kind of a way. In Korean cinema, this is reflected in the movies that are made for the mainstream audiences.

“There is no point to the story being told!”
Okay, there is romance but…
Is that a point when the movie is not a romance movie?

For a movie to succeed in targeting a wide audience, that movie HAS to become a hybrid which includes the standard Korea love story/melodrama for it to sell. In the past, Korean cinema just made straight love stories or melodramas. That genre of movies dominated the box office. However, for about a decade, those straight mainstays started to lose steam. In their places, there were attempts to make more niche “genre” movies. What the industry learned from these experiences was that Korean audiences really didn’t care for what lies at the core of those niche movie genres. They just wanted what they HAD before but just with a twist to hide the taste of blandness. So basically melodramas with a gimmick/twist. As a result, hybrid “pick a genre and shove in melodramas” movies make up the majority of the Korean box office.

Usually, these movies end up rather pointless.

There are exceptions to this phenomenon. Those would be the “gangster” action movies and “We Hate Capitalists!” exploitation thriller movies which originate from the same core emotional angsts and immaturity of the culture. Those movies could definitely be called “Hardcore!” in their own manner. Some even don’t bother with adding in a romance such as “Veteran” (2015). The “Inside men” (2015) had more of an awkward bromance. So that doesn’t count as a romance. These movies are really just about hate, disgusts, and angst.  

They're basically B-movies that made it big!

The Korean movie “Time renegade” (2016) starring Lim Soo-Jung, Cho Jung-Seok, and Lee Jin-Wook does not fall into the category of the exceptions unlike what the English title of “Time renegade” implies. This is not a Sci-fi action adventure or even a thriller really. There is “Time” in this movie but no “renegade!”

That would too edgy!

The accurate translation of the Korean title would be Man out of time.” You can see that there is less of an edge to this translation. This makes it easier to put a romantic spin on the movie. And the promotional campaign for this movie really goes hard on this romance angle. And it wouldn’t be totally lying! The movie is part romance movie as most Korean movies are. I did mention the term “hybrid“ just a moment ago. The question is what is the other element in the mix of this movie's DNA!

Koreans really like to use Tag words without proper understanding!

I’ll answer this questions.

“Time renegade” (2016)… It seems like romance with a Sci-Fi “communication across time and space” gimmick is the new fad in Korea entertainment. Last year, we had the movie “The Phone” (2015) which was a clone of the movie “Frequency” (2010) starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel but with the thriller aspect pumped up and a romance story added in.

Oh and mystical fate and irrational characters!
What would we do without those?

This year, there was the Korean drama “Signal” (2016) with a similar “time” angle applied to a cop procedural. Now, we have “Time renegade” (2016)! The setup of this movie is that there is a male teacher in the mid-1980s who is engaged to a female teacher at the school he works at. Okay, you know the drill! The couple is happy until something happens. Then the protagonist needs to run around trying to save her so that they can marry and have a happy ending.
Nothing special?
Wait a minute!

Let’s call this time period “A.” The Sci-Fi twist is that, 30 years in the future, there is a “bland” cop character just going about his job. Let’s call this time period “B.” Suddenly out of the blue, both male characters from period A and B start dreaming about each other’s’ lives. This is the “time displacement” gimmick of this movie. No one actually time travels nor interacts with the other’s timeline. It is basically just an exchange of knowledge via shared vision of each other’s experiences. And the only time period that really matters is period A. Period B is just there as a source of information. Now, we are getting into the hybrid aspect of the movie.

I added in the “bland” to the cop character’s description because it is a least well-conceived character in the movie.

Oh and don’t ask me the mechanisms of the time thing. It makes no sense and I think I’ve thought about it more than the writer.

And it’s a Korean chick movie!
Who needs logical reasoning in that?
[Sarcasm]

Underneath all the glossy romance surface of the story, what is hidden is a “Slasher” movie's core. “Time renegade” (2016) is basically your typical “Slasher” movie with a masked killer going around killing women likes the rush of 80s slasher movies which followed classics of the genre such as “Halloween” (1978).

Jason Voorhees!
Oops that was Friday the 13th (1980)
Stella!
Wrong genre!

The killer, in this case, has a gas mask instead of a Michael Myers mask. So, that would mean it was ripping off “My Bloody Valentine” (1981). However, instead of an ax, this killer uses a scalpel as its main weapon of choice. It also uses homemade smoke grenades as a method of incapacitation. So…it is a “Kiddie-Slasher” movie! The setup regarding the killer is basically to reduce the gore factor.

You know the Korean female audience cannot handle core!

However, the movie is still basically a “Slasher” story. In fact, the movie is such a typical “Slasher” movie with all its cliché stupid character behaviors including not confirming the killer is down.

Always double tap!
And confirm he is dead!
Always!

This slasher story is in centered on period A. So, what is with period “B?”

In the slasher movie “Final Destination” (2000), there is a point where the protagonist dreams about the future. This is where the protagonist obtains information that would propel the plot forward and provides a possibility that the protagonist might beat the odds.

Okay, the odds are long but still…
The house doesn’t always win..,
Right?

The function of period B is basically the same. It is to provide information. Oh and you know the cliché slasher movie mysterious character comes that out of the blue to provide information to protagonist? The cop character in the future, period B, performs that story function too. In other words, “Time renegade” (2016) is a mix of “Halloween” (1978) and “Frequency” (2010).

What a mix…
Not sure…

I would have to say, this is not a bad idea in concept. It is not that far away from what “Frequency” (2010) was on its own. “Time renegade” (2016) just went for more of a slasher angle than a family drama/thriller one. It could work! But does it work in execution?

The father and son relationship was the point of “Frequency” (2010).
What is the point of “Time renegade” (2016)?
Romance?

Evaluating a movie like “Time renegade” (2016) is interesting as you have to examine in according to its 3 objectives. First, be at least a decent albeit standard slasher genre movie. Second, be a cohesive and consistent movie as a whole. There is a difference. And three, how well does it hide the fact that the movie is a slasher movie and thus make the movie palatable for the Korean audience. “Time renegade” (2016) succeeds in one, does okay with another, and fails at the other.

What does that add up to?

Let’s start with the first! Is it an okay slasher?

In regards to the acting, none of the main cast members are masters of their craft. However, the actors are decent for slasher movie standards. I would describe their acting as okay but inconsistent. For a lot of their time on screen, they do what is required of them. However, here and there, they come off really awkward in their delivery. This is more so for the actor Lee Jin-Wook who plays the cop in period B, the future. In comparison, actress Lim Soo-Jung and Cho Jung-Seok comes off less scarred. Not great but okay. Personally, I cannot blame Lee Jin-Wook too much because period B is the relatively less well-written part of the movie. So, he has less to work with. In addition, this is the director’s fault as he should have done a few more takes to ensure the performances are consistent. 

The director of this movie is Kwak Jae-Young who had a hot streak during the early 2000s with romance movies: My Sassy Girl (2001), Classic (2003), Windstruck (2004). However, “Time renegade” (2016) is his first movie in 8 years and it does show. His camera work and visuals in this movie are energetic but incompetent which ends up being worse than just being plain lazy. All his effort into creative visuals and camera work is just more distracting than engaging. This is especially true for when the mix of time is visually expressed on screen. It is rather confusing in what is going on. As a result, the visual aspect of the movie does not deliver the required information to the audience in a concise manner.

Since the movie is lacking on the visual department, the soundtrack has to pick up the slack. And it does in a way. In terms of sound engineering, “Time renegade” (2016) is not great. It is very common for Korean movie to slack on the sound engineering when budget and schedules run tight. The different audio channels of the “Time renegade” (2016) doesn’t’ blend well together.

That is a lot of Korean movies for you!
So, you get used to it after a while.

However, I’m talking about the soundtrack. The movie “Halloween” (1978) heavily depends on its famous soundtrack to convey emotion and movie the pacing of the movie. Considering the visuals of “Time renegade” (2016) fail to do this, I would say that the soundtrack of “Time renegade” (2016) had a tough task to accomplish. And it does do the job. I cannot remember a single score of the soundtrack other than the fact that the movie was heavy with the presence of the soundtrack. In fact, the movie would fall flat without the sheer pressure of the soundtrack dictating and shouting at you on how to feel. It is not an ideal situation but I’ll take it. 

I know it is a cheap approach.
But you have to take what you are given in slasher.

All this means is that “Time renegade” (2016) works as a run of the mill slasher. The pace of the movie keeps going without too much down time and the soundtrack drives you through the plot. In terms of the killer, the design is decent and does the job albeit not in a creative manner. The character of the killer is non-existent and the overall point of the killer doesn’t make much impact. However, this is also a cliché of the genre. So, I give it a pass although I’m not sure if the failure of the killer to amount to much is just following the clichés or bad writing. Could be both though. In any case, “Time renegade” (2016) an okay run of the mill slasher movie.

In terms of being a cohesive and consistent movie as a whole, this is where the movie has major issues. The plot that runs in the future, period B, is just badly written. The characters are bland and do too many irrational behaviors. The plot is written with too many coincidences in order to support the plot in Period A, the past. For example, the cop character doesn’t seem to know it is 2015 and the Korean police have a huge database of information. He just gets his information from microfilm and old typed up reports like he was a cop in a 60s cop movie.

This may be part a reference but he even doesn’t use the internet once!
What main character who solves crimes in a modern setting not use the internet?

What is worst is that the Sci-Fi  “time” communication aspect really doesn’t make any logical sense in its mechanics or reasoning. Those just changed according to the whims of the writers. It uses the “Back to the future” erasure from photos visual trick a few times but, even after the photos are gone, most of the characters still have their memories of events before.

What?

While the plot of Period A is not particularly well written and the protagonist does stupid things, that is a genre cliché. In addition, no one said that the male school teacher was smart. He is played by Cho Jung-Seok after all. All of his characters come off as whiny morons anyway even if they are not written that way. In contrast, the cop is meant to be a cop and his character is the brains of the cast. He does all of the necessary thinking. The result of this is that, not only does the plot of period B doesn’t work at all, but there is no satisfying the protagonist solving the mystery of the killer in this movie. The teacher just stumbling on the ending which also makes the killer rather flat at the end. Again, the killer doesn’t have much of the character to it. It is just a thing that kills people…mostly females.


While “Time renegade” (2016) fails at being a well-rounded movie, it seems to succeed at the last element I set out to judge it. The movie is doing quite well in Korea. Personally, I heard an adult female at my screening tell her boyfriends that it was “fun.” At the same time, I barely have seen anyone recognize that this movie is a slasher. It seems to be accepted as a mystic romance thriller. Is this wrong?

“Time renegade's” (2016) positon within the genre of movies is interesting. It is not close to the position where movies like “Ghost” (1990) are. Those are more romance dramas but with some slight mystery elements. In terms of its structure and plot, “Time renegade” (2016) is more close to a slasher especially in period A, in the past. The “Ghost” (1990) like romances is mostly seen in the weaker period B side plot. So, it should be seen more as a slasher. What “Time renegade” (2016) succeeds in is to use period B’s plot to package the slasher period A’s plot as a romance. This is rather interesting as really period B is the weaker part of the movie.

Do I like that they did this?

“Time renegade” (2016) is your entry-level Korean product made for females that avoid the more hardcore niche genres like slasher horror. You can say that it is the "harlequin novel" approach to slasher movies. In those novels targeted at pre-teen girls, in addition to historical romances and modern rom-com stories, there would be sci-fi, spy, and noir stories to provide variety. These would essentially just be romance stories set in a watered down genre framework for female audiences. And “Time renegade” (2016) does succeed on this level even though it is unexceptional as a slasher horror movie.

                            It is not too threatening! 

How you end up judging this movie will rely on how you feel about the harlequin novel approach I just mentioned. I, personally, am a man who actually read a lot of romance in his pre-teens and teens years in addition to the hardcore genre horror, sci-fi, and action offering. I’m not particularly fond of the harlequin novel approach as, when I read romances, I read them for the romance and not for the lesser versions of story elements I could get better versions elsewhere. However, that is me. In terms of “Time renegade” (2016), I didn’t hate it. I’ve seen worse “proper” hardcore slasher movies. The remake of “My Bloody Valentine” (1981) was a worse movie going experience. “I didn’t want my money back as it is interesting to see how Korean cinema fails. It is like affordable film criticism course. Once again, that is me.



Score: C

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