After audiences get over the quick satisfying jolt of seeing LOST's Yunjin Kim in a role outside of her Sun Kwon character, they're going to be left with nothing more than the remnants of Seven Days' two-hour time span. Alas, what remains of Korean director Shin-yeon Won's child abduction thriller are elements slothfully borrowed -- and, at times, directly copied -- from several gritty, fraught-driven procedural films from the West, with nothing original or memorable to justify all the familiarity. What's more, a frenetic, headache-inducing rhythm clouds whatever intrigue Kim's performance would've generated in the picture, leaving it tediously thrashing about with stylish recklessness and a lack of purpose.
The story follows Yu Ji-yeon (Kim), a lawyer and devoted mother whose daughter has been kidnapped. As expected, with knowledge of her profession and ability to manipulate the legal system, the abductors have a task for her to complete before she can get her daughter back. It involves proving the innocence of a man who's scheduled to receive the death penalty for a vicious murder of a young girl, one that clearly looks towards the suspect-at-hand as the clear killer. But for the sake of her child, Yu Ji-yeon digs into the nasty underbelly of the suspect's sordid life to try and rustle up details that might get him off in court, which leads to other, more dubious developments as she learns more.
Seven Days could've been an interesting thriller cut from a similar cloth as Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder, if handled skillfully and with a tempered edge -- perhaps like subdued version of Ron Howard's Ransom with the added criminal case component. But Shin-yeon Won instead opts to direct the film as an overt amalgamation of David Fincher's and Tony Scott's aggressive styles, featuring breakneck editing, harsh acid-like flashes, and intense zooms that try to shape it into a clone of Man on Fire, while the macabre focus on the murder's machinations lift directly from Se7en's curiosities. Style masks whatever emotion core the film could've had, erratically jerking across locations with Yunjin Kim's talents literally blurred and cut away in the process.
An observable lack of concentration on character complexity separates Seven Days from its influences, instead allowing the hectic visual style and ham-fisted, bullet-point developments to jerkily yank the film along like a driver first learning to use a stick shift. As it lacks the delicateness of its influences in handling the link between the hero and the subject of the search, it instead uses the little girl -- and her ailments, such as an allergy that the captors exploit -- as merely a plot device with very little established emotion in its stilted beginning. Sure, an argument might be made that it's the point of Shin-yeon Wan's picture to use the girl's captivity as a simple driver, just to create a thriller that churns its gears around the connecting-of-dots. That doesn't excuse the muddled emotional connect, though.
If that weren't enough, Seven Days keeps going ... and going, inertly spinning its wheels for an overextended two-hour slog littered with ludicrous neo-political kinks, bland CSI-level proceedings, and flimsy emotional distress. The actual tension simply gets lost in the chaotic construction underneath Shin-yeon Won's direction, boiling to a haughty two-part climax involving a stilted courtroom battle and a "disturbing" scene in the middle of a desert area -- one equipped with power lines and police cars containing a disheartening discovery, missing only Det. Somerset claiming that, "John Doe has the upper hand". Though it tacks on a few ineffective, albeit aggressively depressing thrills at the end much in the same method as its build-up, Seven Days concludes with about as much of a cathartic point as the rest of its agonizing, unruly runtime: very, very little.
Video, Audio, and Special Features:
Seven Days arrived to the DVDTalk offices as a watermarked, non-anamorphic screener with no menus or other elements to gauge for a finalized home video release. Prime Entertainment's large corporate logo covers roughly 80% of the image to varying degrees of opacity; therefore, it's safe to assume that the visual treatment here isn't anything like what'll be on retailer shelves, and shouldn't be gauged as such. We'll update accordingly if/when the actual disc arrives.
It's oftentimes a little unfair to gauge a film based on its overt influences, but the Korean film Seven Days mirrors its American inspirations to such a degree that it's nearly inescapable. This child abduction thriller simply feels like a secondhand knock-off that brings nothing new to substantiate its blatantly-copied fervor, sporting little point outside of exhibiting LOST actress Yunjin Kim's acting abilities within edgy, gruff situations -- and even she gets lost in the frantic styling. Skip this one, and opt to either buy or revisit Se7en and Man on Fire instead.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site