K-POP star Choi Seung-hyn, better known as T.O.P. to his millions of fans, shows he’s much more than a handsome face in “Commitment,” an Asian spy thriller about the boundaries between North and South Korea. T.O.P is a South Korean rapper, singer, songwriter, model, and actor, best known as a lead rapper of the hip hop Korean boy band BIGBANG, one of South Korea’s top K-Pop bands, named one of the top ten poised to break into the American Market. He has been winning acting awards in various dramas and films, including I Am Sam, Iris, Nineteen,71: Into the Fire, and Alumni. Fuse readers named K-pop star T.O.P the sexiest male musician of 2013, beating out Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, Adam Lambert and more. Rolling Stone listed the 26-year-old as one of the sex symbols of 2013.
COMMITMENT SYNOPSIS: After his father’s botched espionage mission, North Korean Myung-hoon (CHOI Seung-hyun) and his young sister Hye-in (HAN Ye-ri) are sent to a labor prison camp. In order to save his sister RI Hye-in (KIM Yoo-jung), Myung-hoon volunteers to become a spy and infiltrates the South as a teenage defector. While attending high school in the South, he meets another girl named LEE Hye-in (KIM Yoo-jeong) and rescues her when she is attacked. South Korean Intelligence soon discovers the plot and begins closing in on Myung-hoon, while his own government sends a vicious assassin to eliminate him.
The acting in “Commitment” is strong throughout, and the subject matter is deserving of consideration, but shaving off some time and a re-edit would make it more polished and less muddy to the audience. That being said, “Commitment” is a worthy of a look.
The film opens with the murder of Myung-Hoon’s father, a North Korean operative for the Pyongyang regime, who is killed believing he is about to be repatriated from South Korea after dutiful service to his country. But as the film progresses, we learn no one ever gets home alive after serving as an agent.
The North Korean military Commander MOON Sang-Chul (CHO Seong-ha) sends Myung-Hoon and his little sister RI Hye-in (KIM Yoo-jung) to a forced labor camp in North Korea. A few years later, the Commander offers the same deal with the devil to Myung-Hoon – freedom for both his sister and himself if he accepts employment as an agent in South Korea.
The manipulative Moon Sang-Chul recruits Myung-Hoon with nationalistic rhetoric as well as the chance to set things right, claiming Myung-Hoon’s father was a disgrace to his country. The Commander’s real motivation becomes apparent as the foster family Myung-Hoon is sent to live with prove to be diamond smugglers, and his “missions” involve turf wars between two North Korean factions, section 8 and Unit 35.
Myung-Hoon has a little trouble assimilating into his new high school, but makes fast friends with LEE Hye-in, (KIM Yoo-jeong) a girl who shares his sister’s name. They bond together as the targets of relentless bullying by a gang of popular high school thugs, who subject them to routine shakedowns. One day they go too far and Myung-Hoon forces a new respect from the bullies after breaking a few fingers.
After the murder of his adoptive family, Myung-Hoon finds himself threatened by both South Korean intelligence agents and his own repressive government, which sends assassins to dispatch him after he begins investigating his father’s death. A South Korean agent, CHA Jung-min (YOON Je-moon), is sent to investigate the explosion Myung-Hoon creates to obliterates his house, the remains of his adoptive parents and the spy who killed them. The kindly agent starts to puts the pieces of the puzzle together and tries to help Myung-Hoon – who is not very cooperative.
The fight scenes are more than capably handled by Seung-hyn, who demonstrates acting chops far beyond his pop-star persona. He is believable as a young executioner, slipping between the normal world of high school (which is traumatic enough) and the high-stakes espionage world he enters at night. The villain played by CHO Seong-Ha is a dastardly antagonist, and the final scene channels “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” with a three-way face-off between the kindly South Korean agent, The North Korean Commander, and Myung-Hoon.
The film ambitiously tackles family, nationalism, loyalty, high school bullying, espionage between countries, and the bonds between them all. As a result, the film is complicated to follow and overly long.
CAST CHOI Seung-hyun (T.O.P.), HAN Ye-ri,
YOON Je-moon, CHO Seong-ha, KIM Yoo-jung
PRODUCTION The Lamp and Golden Fish Pictures
DIRECTOR PARK Hong-soo
SCREENWRITER KIM Soo-young
EDITOR KIM Sang-bum, KIM Jae-bum
DISTRIBUTOR Well Go USA Entertainment (North America)
WORLD SALES Showbox/Mediaplex
RUN TIME/FORMAT: 108 MIN / Digital formats / Korean with English Subtitles / Not Rated
EXTRA – T.O.P.’s LATEST MUSIC VIDEO “DOOM DADA M/V”