There’s something about Kim Seon-ho’s smile: the corners of his eyes crease, his famous dimples appear and his entire face lights up. It’s the kind of smile that invites you in and makes you smile with him. At least, this was how we got acquainted with his toothy grin in K-dramas such as “Hometown Cha-cha-cha” and “Start-Up.”
But this is not the kind of smile that you will see him wear in his debut film, “The Childe.” The film was written and directed by Park Hoon-jung (“VIP,” “New World”) and costars Go A-ra (“Hwarang,” “Ms. Hammurabi”), Kim Kang-woo (“Sabotage City”) and Kang Tae-ju (“Hello, Me”).
Kim plays the titular role of Gwi Gong-ja, which translates to Nobleman. But for all intents and purposes, he remains nameless in the entire film. His character introduces himself, in English, as Professional.
The English title of the film is “The Childe,” changed from “Sad Tropics.” The sad tropics probably refers to the Philippines because this is where Marco (Kang) came from before he flies to Seoul to meet his father. It features the struggles of being a Kopino, a mix of Korean and Filipino ethnicity.
The Nobleman mysteriously appears and goes after Marco, which involves a series of high-octane car and foot chases. The visuals feel like a video game as it follows the two characters as they traverse highways and forests. Guns of all shapes and sizes are used. It is violent, but it also doesn’t take itself seriously.
The film allows for some comic relief, mostly brought by Kim at the most unexpected moments. In one scene, Kang-woo indirectly addresses what the audience has been thinking when he tells his victim to run for his life. He tells the man to do it in zigzags.
The story is very simple and straightforward, which works just as well, given that it takes place within 24-48 hours. It feels like an introduction to something more complicated. It leaves a lot of that possibility.
Kim’s background is never revealed. His motivation remains a mystery until the end. What is established is his methodology. He’s always ahead of his enemies, plans everything in advance and understands the driving force behind other characters’ actions. The Nobleman is a heartless killer.
This is how Kim shows his depth as an actor. His smile in this film is chilling. There’s madness in his eyes that makes your blood run cold. He’s merciless with a gun, but can easily switch to a comedic gunman. This is probably one of Kim’s finest works to date.
“The Childe” is such an exciting watch that you lose track of time. The Philippine Seonhohadas (Kim’s fandom) showed up in full force on the first screening day. Twitter user @BonenggayG hosted five block screenings at different cinemas in Metro Manila to support the actor’s film. Seonhohadas have been rallying fans to watch it on the first few days, to ensure a full theater run for the film.
With the kind of performance Kim brought to the table, Seonhohada’s efforts are definitely worth it.