Smugglers by Madeline Mansell

Occasionally, I will watch a scene in a film and think, “this is something I never knew I needed to see, but I am very glad I did”; and I am sure, like myself, many people had this exact thought when watching the final underwater fight scene in Ryoo Seung-Wan’s crime-drama-action film, Smugglers.

            Set in the 1970s in a small seaside town, Smugglers tells the story of a group of expert female divers, who, after a tragic incident and constant financial struggles, decide to go down the dangerous but lucrative path of diving for smuggled goods that have been tossed from transport ships. After their initial victories, the women slowly realize they are in too deep (pun intended), and they must fight their way to freedom.

Red Carpet at TIFF

            With flashy, colorful visuals paired with funky music, Seung-Wan does a great job of keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, however, the film did get a little too jumpy with its storytelling. Most of the film consists of brilliantly choreographed action sequences and high-stress Ocean’s 11 style heist deliberating; however, Seung-Wan also adds in a handful of emotional scenes, which I found threw off the otherwise humorous nature of the film, making it harder to engage with whatever came next.

            Kim Hye-Soo and Yum Jung-Ah lead the film as divers and frenemies, with plenty of double-crossing and backstabbing to keep you wondering who is in the wrong and who is in the right. They each do a fantastic job at carrying the story along but notably, Kim Hye-Soo effortlessly balances the job of being both a comedic relief and a complex, wounded character. I do, however, wish that the film focused on the personalities and lives of the other four divers, as we only get a few lines out of each of them, even though they appear to be part of the main cast. For a seemingly female-led film, there is a lot of story surrounding romantic interest and partial antagonist, Sergeant Kwon (played by Zo In-Sung).             Looking past a few storytelling blunders, Smugglers pairs some of the most outrageously over-the-top fight sequences I have ever seen with music and costumes that will transport you directly to the 1970s, ensuring a wild and exciting ride for any viewer.

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