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How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie by way of depraved psychological murder mystery, “Idol” mainly functions to give the increasingly exhausted viewer a greater appreciation for the work of Lee’s more internationally well-known peers in Korean genre cinema. Seemingly an attempt at the kind of stylishly nasty, unpredictable, category-defying thrill ride that Park Chan-wook or Bong Joon-ho can make look dazzlingly easy by comparison with their tonal high-wire acts, this fallen “Idol” takes an early tumble and spends the rest of an unnecessary 144 minutes getting hopelessly tangled in the safety net.
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The film does boast an arresting opening narration, however. In husky, grave voiceover, a father describes masturbating his developmentally challenged adult son on a regular basis. The father, whom we don’t see until later, is Joong-sik (Sul Kyung-gu) bottle-blond and crazy-eyed; the son, Bu-nam, is dead before the film begins, killed in a late-night roadside accident perpetrated by the teenage son of rising-star politician and upstanding citizen Myung-**** (Han Seok-kyu). Apparently not understanding that the principle of a hit-and-run is to flee the scene of the crime, the boy has brought Bu-nam’s battered corpse home for his parents to deal with. Teenagers, eh?
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That we’re hearing Joong-sik’s revelations about the intimate nature of his time with his son while watching Myung-****, his wife and their shellshocked kid stumble around in a bloodied garage before we know who any of these people are let alone how they are connected, should indicate how confusing “Idol” is...
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