Lee Seong-tae found his way to audiences in 2016 with his feature directing debut, Derailed. Featuring SHINee band member Minho in his first lead role in a film, the film also stars 2EYES member Jung Da-eun, Baek Soo-min, and actors Lee You-jin and Ma Dong-seok (a.k.a. Don Lee).
Derailed centers on the story of Jin-il, Ga-young, Bong-gil and Min-kyung, young adult runaways who move from place to place and constantly maintain through stealing what they can for a quick buck. Trying to manage a roof over their heads for the night after losing their latest prospect, Ga-young offers to sell herself, only to be located by Hyung-suk, a brutish karaoke bar owner searching for his missing car.
In way over their heads whilst on the run from Ga-young’s violent, murderous ex, Sung-hoon (Kim Jae-young), the protective Jin-il rushes the hotel with Bong-gil and barely make their escape, evidently ending their chase when Hyung-suk locates and catches them unexpectedly, and wedges the two in a debt-settling agreement as their creditor with Ga-young forced to work as a hostess at Hyung-suk’s bar.
With detectives lying in-wait and Sung-hoon still menacing the streets, Jin-il and Bong-gil commence their hustle to help settle their debt and free Ga-young, and though despite the dilligent work of the detectives investigating their crimes, not even long-arm of the law will be enough for the warring Jin-il and Hyung-suk, as their desperatation to save the ones they love, soon brings them to both to a violent and potentially tragic conclusion.
If you’re a fan of any of the stars in this movie, it’s understandable the excitement of catching a title so obscure as this one. It’s been a few years since its release and marketing, and it comes at an awfully good time too, given Minho’s career progression of late, and especially that of Ma, whose alternative name in the West has come by way of an inaugural Marvel franchise debut coming next year.
The battle lines aren’t quite drawn as you begin, almost right away, to observe certain nuances about characterizations, comparing and contrasting the motivations of both Jin-il and Hyung-suk. Minho’s Jin-il is as stubborn and tenacious as they come, especially when it comes to Ga-young’s, and with little caring for his own safety or the potential consequences of his actions, there’s a pivotal moment when he ups the stakes in a single all-or-nothing decision, and right or wrong, it’s more than a wake-up call for Hyung-suk.
Kim’s portrayal of Sung-hoon is an absolute driving force throughout the story, underlying or not. Sung-hoon is a man with much more than a serious case of romantic baggage, and he has zero compunction about doing his worst, which makes him an immeasurably intense villain at times when factoring him into between Jin-il and Ga-young. Also, you instantly get an idea of what the history is between the trio within minutes of Sung-hoon’s arrival and so the story never loses its tone or energy, or pace.
Part and parcel to the enjoyment of this film is, of course, the action, which plays out in suspenseful moments at times, between foot chases to kitchen sink level street brawls, with Ma, hulking out on screen and man-handling just about everyone half his size. To his credit, it marks yet another addition to the list of films that currently make Ma a burgeoning star outside of Korea with credits like Well Go USA releases such as Champion, Unstoppable, and Lee Won-tae’s The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, which happens to be on par for a U.S. remake at some point with Sylvester Stallone’s involvement.
With Ma’s role of Hyung-suk, there’s no question that he’s got some unsavory penchants. He’s definitely not an evil person, but you get the idea that he’s made his fair share of Faustian deals for the sake of his livelihood and his family. For this, it gets interesting to witness the paradigm between Jin-il and Hyung-suk, who’ve tampered with the limits to their law-breaking habits until someone goes just a little too far before getting caught-up.
The unfortunate part is that Derailed doesn’t achieve much with its current title, save for a few shots on a parking lot over a railyard, and maybe how it speaks to the agendas of our characters with respect to the plot. Rest assured, your time is put to good use with Lee’s freshman crime thriller in Derailed, whether you’re a fan of pop idols like Minho, or of actors stars like Ma, whose versatility on screen never loses traction.