A South Korean remake of a 2013 Chinese crime drama called Drug War is how we got the 2018 film Believer. Despite the title, the film has little to do with Religion. Both films have a similar premise but go in a much different direction. Set in South Korea, Cho Jin-woong stars as police officer Won-ho, after his informant is killed by a mysterious kingpin known only as “Mr. Lee.” Won-ko crosses paths with Rak (Ryu Jun-yeol), a drug dealer with valuable information about Mr. Lee’s organization. Together they must go deep into Korean’s criminal underbelly to discover the identity of man controls the country’s drug trade.
Believer has a stellar cast of actors who bring to life a colorful cast of characters. Performances like Kim Joo-hyuk as a terrifyingly unstable client of Mr. Lee, Ha-Rim bring tension and excitement to the film. The actor who died in a car accident shortly after filming this movie delivers in a brilliant scene where Cho impersonates one of Mr. Lee’s lieutenants to make a deal with Ha-Rim. Immediately afterward he rushes to another hotel suite to make the same deal pretending to be Ha-Rim to fool Mr. Lee’s real lieutenant. There is also the performance of two deaf drug makers who are as sympathetic as they are vicious. The characters make the film and mask the issues in the writing.
What hurts this film is the predictability of the story. The movie builds up the identity of the man known as Mr. Lee, but it really doesn’t take long to figure out exactly who it is. By the time you get to the big reveal, you have already figured it out an hour before taking away the punch of the scene. The film also ends on a cliffhanger which is really disappointing seeing how there will probably not be a sequel to know what happened, leaving the ending to the audience’s interpretation.
Believer is beautifully shot and well-paced action thriller. A technically sound film where the acting makes it is a worthwhile watch. Despite some shortcomings, fans of Korean cinema, especially action will find this movie to be very satisfying.