South Korea, 2022, 108’, Korean
Directed by: Park Dae-min
Screenplay: Park Dae-min, Kim Bong-seo, Park Dong-hee
Photography (color): Hong Jae-sik
Editing: Kim Seon-min
Art Direction: Lee Jin-hyeong
Music: Hwang Sang-jun
Producers: Kim Bong-seo, Seok Dong-jun, Seol Jeong-wook, Ju Seung-hwan, Kim Seong-hun
Cast: Park So-dam (Eun-ha), Song Sae-byeok (Jo Geong-pil), Kim Eui-sung (Baek), Jeong Hyeon-jun (Seo-won), Yeon Woo-jin (Doo-sik), Yeom Hye-ran (Han), Han Hyun-min (Asif)
Date of First Release in Territory: January 12th, 2022
Who can resist the idea of a movie starring Park So-dam – who so memorably played Ki-jung/Jessica in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite – as a laconic speedster who flouts gangsters and drives circles around the police? Park plays Eun-ha, whose official place of employment is an automotive junkyard in Busan, working for a world-weary boss played by Kim Eui-sung (Train to Busan). But her driving skills make her the most essential component of an underground business that promises to deliver anything – goods, people, contraband – that the postal service won’t handle.
One day the company is contacted by a man on the run from the police because of his involvement in a massive gambling scam. The client asks for him and his young son to be driven to a port so that they can flee the country, but when Eun-ha arrives at the meeting point, the boy is alone, running from a pack of hired thugs. Soon she and the boy are fleeing for their lives, with a corrupt detective (Song Sae-byeok) in pursuit, determined to rub them out.
Special Delivery, by third-time director Park Dae-min, is centered around two familiar staples of commercial cinema: the car chase, and the child-in-peril narrative. The car chases are dynamic and consistently entertaining, although I will say that they don’t contain quite the visceral force of the brief but unforgettable car chase in Hostage: Missing Celebrity (2021). But where Special Delivery particularly succeeds is in creating narrative momentum to go along with the spectacle. Inserting the young boy into this story does indeed boost the tension, in part thanks to the charismatic performance by Jeong Hyeon-jun (who is none other than the actor who played Da-song, Jessica’s pupil, in Parasite). As the action moves across the Korean peninsula and eventually back to Busan, all but the most jaded viewers will find themselves caught up in the story.
As for Park So-dam, the cool reserve she shows in this film lies more on the surface, slightly different from what she showed in Parasite. She handles the physical demands of the role well (there are a few intense action scenes), and is a consistently intriguing and likable lead character. One of the film’s highlights is the way she interacts with her boss, another tough character whose empathy is kept in reserve. The film’s antagonist, in contrast, keeps very little in reserve: Song Sae-byeok portrays the detective Cho as an unstoppable force of almost pure evil. To be honest, the performance veers pretty much out of control, but in the end that doesn’t make the film any less entertaining. Several of the supporting roles also stand out, particularly the brilliant Yeom Hye-ran (Black Light) as an intelligence officer, and Han Hyun-min, a model/TV star of African descent who grew up in Korea, in his first film role.
Special Delivery never attempts to subvert its genre, or deliver any social messages, despite some references to North Korea. It succeeds because of its energy, craftsmanship and charisma. More than anything, fans of Park So-dam will find much to enjoy in this fast-paced, breezy ride.
Park Dae-min originally studied architecture before shifting his focus to film directing. In the early 2000s he directed several short films that screened at festivals including the Busan Asian Short Film Festival, and in 2005 he won the top prize in a screenplay competition, which paved the way for his directorial debut Private Eye in 2009. Starring Hwang Jung-min, the film won an award for Best Production Design at the Blue Dragon Film Awards. His second feature, Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River, was a period drama financed by local studio CJ E&M. Special Delivery was shot in 2019 before the pandemic, and was released in early 2022.
2009 – Private Eye
2016 – Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River
2022 – Special Delivery