Film Review: ‘Traffickers’

Organs to go
By Joe Bendel
Joe Bendel
Joe Bendel
January 1, 2015 Updated: January 3, 2015

Where can you go for a no-questions-asked organ transplant? If you said China, you win a free kidney, symbolically speaking of course. However, the dodgy Chinese hospital that Yoo-ri’s father has been referred to has a strict bring-your-own-organs (BYOO) policy. Yeong-gyoo’s gang is supposed to take care of all the messy parts during the passage over, but things kind of get out of hand in Kim Hong-seon’s “Traffickers,” which Well Go USA released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

The premise of ‘Traffickers’ is a little forced, especially given the substantiated allegations of state-sponsored organ harvesting in prison camps.

Yeong-gyoo used to be Korea’s top trafficker in human organs until an incident led to the very public death of his intended victim and his young protégé. From then on, he scraped by as a conventional contraband smuggler. Unfortunately, when his latest shipment is served up to the police, Yeong-gyoo has no choice but to get the old gang back together for another score.

Unbeknown to her, Yoo-ri is Yeong-gyoo’s new client. Having arranged through a broker to have a brand-spanking-new heart meet her father at the Chinese hospital, Yoo-ri only knows Yeong-gyoo as the strange man who sometimes initiates awkward, vaguely threatening conversations. The truth is the smuggler has fallen in love with the ticket agent during the considerable time he spends in the port, but being a smooth-talking seducer is not one of his many faults.

While onboard the slow boat to China, Yoo-ri helps the newlywed Sang-ho search for his missing wheelchair-bound wife Chae-hee. Obviously, she has not given much thought to where her father’s new heart will come from, but desperation can lead to shortsightedness. There will also be further coincidences linking the fateful circle of passengers.

Frankly, the premise of “Traffickers” is a little forced, especially given the substantiated allegations of state-sponsored organ harvesting in prison camps. (Why risk attracting outside attention when you can simply order up a heart from a prisoner of conscience?)

Director Kim Hong-seon and co-screenwriter Kim Sang-myung go with it nonetheless, focusing on humanity at its most distressed, building to (yeah, yeah, yeah, mild spoilerish alert) a real downer of an ending. Yet, somehow the film is still quite entertaining to watch.

"Traffickers," a South Korean drama centered on the organ trade, has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. (WellGo USA)
“Traffickers,” a South Korean drama centered on the organ trade, has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. (WellGo USA)

Functioning as sort of a riff on “The Lady Vanishes,” “Traffickers” features several tense near misses and a great action showdown. A supporting player who shall remain nameless also pulls off a massively effective character swerve, earning unreg.

For his part, Lim Chang Jung broods solidly as the world-weary Yeong-gyoo. As usual, Oh Dal-su adds plenty of vinegary grit as Yeong-gyoo’s soused saw-bones. Although deliberately stiff at first, Jo Yun-hie turns it up later on as Yoo-ri.

So yes, organ trafficking is a bad business, no matter how you might get involved with it. Kim capitalizes on the claustrophobic ship’s setting rather adroitly and keeps the pace distractingly brisk. Just about the entire narrative fails the logic test in retrospect, but viewers really won’t notice in the moment.

Recommended for those who enjoy dark thrillers, “Traffickers” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and digital platforms from Well Go USA.

 

‘Traffickers’ (‘Gong-mo-ja-deul’)
Director: Kim Hong-seon
Starring: Lim Chang Jung, Daniel Choi, Oh Dal-su
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc
Not rated

3.5 stars out of 5

 

Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit www.jbspins.blogspot.com

Joe Bendel