Smugglers is director Ryoo Seung-Wan’s fresh attempt at a crime thriller and action-comedy that captures many of the desired characteristics of the genre that fans are looking for: well-placed comedic moments and expertly choregraphed action sequences that are not for the faint of heart. Do not be fooled, however, as this is not your typical heist film. Smugglers diverts from the stereotypically hyper-masculine elements of the genre by following the stories of female divers who must outsmart their male opponents in order to escape from poverty—even if that means entering a life of crime. The humorous, charismatic, and chilling performances delivered by lead actresses Kim Hye-Soo, Yum Junh-ah, and Go Min-Si will ensure that the audience roots for the female leads in the film every step of the way, resulting in any feminist leaving the theatre feeling vindicated and energized.
While Smugglers is a fast-paced and engaging thriller that will keep most audience members entertained, it leaves something to be desired in the emotional department. The relationship between the two female leads—Chun-ja and Jin-suk—is integral to the plot but only lightly explored, limiting the emotional pay-off at the end of the film. Without a deep investment in the relationship between the two leads, the two hour and nine minute run-time of the film can drag at times. However, the excellent action sequences, thrilling underwater stunts, and perfectly timed comedic bits throughout result in a film that is an immensely enjoyable watch, if not completely emotionally satisfying.