blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One (2022, Park Hoon-jung)

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One starts with a flashback to the very late nineties or very early aughts—someone’s still got a cassette walkman, but MP3 players do exist. Now, The Other One is a sequel, but it’s a “start from scratch” sequel, so for a while, it seems like this story will be important.

Not really. It brings Jo Min-su back in from the first movie, then establishes witches are always twins before jumping ahead to the present. So, just keeping track, we’ve met a new cast, introduced them to the old cast, then jumped ahead and abandoned them. Other One closely tracks four or five characters, with another ten in the background. Writer and director Park treats it as a gimmick, all these different people pursuing the title character, who we’ll meet incredibly slowly and intercut with other characters’ stories. It’s a busy film.

In the present, a strike team of other witch-powered people—lots of superpowers in Other One; lots—attacks a research laboratory and kills everyone, except then Shin Si-ah gets up and walks out. She’s covered in blood, and it’s snowy out; lots of good visuals. Park spends the first half of Other One putting a lot of time into the composition. Then, in the second half, which is an extended fight scene at night with a couple dozen people and lots of superspeed… it seems like composition’s all of a sudden less important. But, first half, lots of mood.

Shin gets to a road where a van of bad guys who have just kidnapped local landowner Park Eun-bin. She’s back in Korea from the United States; her father just died, and she’s there to care for little brother Sung Yoo-bin. And to ensure her evil uncle Jin Goo doesn’t sell the farm to resort developers. He’s not just vaguely evil; he’s a crime boss. The implication is Park and Sung’s dad was a crime boss too. Establishing the ground situation on the family dynamics takes Park almost the entire movie. Everyone’s got a history, lots of people know each other, but Park very gingerly reveals those details. The mood is more important than the exposition in scenes, like when Lee Jong-suk goes to talk to Jo about it. They’re suspicious of one another because they’re part of different factions in this super-secret organization, which basically created all the witches.

If they have superpowers, we don’t find out this movie. Probably next.

Jo’s going to get old friend Seo Eun-soo to hunt Shin for her, but Seo and Lee have history together, which the film spends too much time on. The Other One runs two hours and seventeen minutes, and there must be at least ten easily cuttable minutes. Unless it matters for the next movie, in which case, release an extended cut. For this movie, The Other One’s got considerable excess.

Seo’s some kind of government agent who hunts witches. She’s got a literal man-bun bro sidekick Justin John Harvey. They speak in English to one another, with Harvey complaining about Seo swearing at them in Korean. They have a lot of scenes together and no chemistry. Seo’s English language acting is presumably not-native language acting, so she gets some slack. Harvey’s just an amateur. Their scenes are sometimes amusing, but most times, they’re just trying way too hard and never finding a moment.

Until they start having action scenes, then it turns out they’ve both got superpowers. There are seven people with superpowers fighting in the final sequence. It’s basically an X-Men movie at that point.

Okay, so Shin saves Park from Jin Goo’s thugs, and Park takes her home to brother Sung. Jin Goo’s going to terrorize the household the rest of the movie, escalating in violence and intimidation, with Shin having to protect her new friends. Meanwhile, everyone else is looking for Shin, too, all headed out to the farm.

Where there’s a lengthy fight sequence, complete with rocket launchers and flying and knives and all sorts of things. It feels very much like director Park’s trying to make up for not having enough story, so at least there’s whiz-bang gore action. The Other One never feels much like a horror movie, just a gory action one with lots of standing blood. The long fight takes place at night, with Park rushing through it. When you’ve got a dozen people fighting at once, you can be fast while still being slow.

The acting’s all fine. Seo’s the biggest disappointment (you keep waiting for her to be better when not speaking English, but, first, she’s usually speaking English with Harvey, and, second, she’s not really any better with Korean dialogue). Jin Goo’s good as the villain you didn’t think would be important but ends up driving the plot.

Shin, Park, and Sung are all good, but they don’t really have much to do. After the first act, Park and Sung are entirely supporting Shin or one of her pursuers. They get no time for themselves. Sung eventually gets more because he’s around while Park’s out picking up red herring.

Most of the third act is set up for the next movie, which is unfortunate. Just when Shin finally gets some agency, she loses it to franchise building, which is too bad. It’s the worst thing about the movie, which has been teasing post-Other One plot lines throughout, but always additively. Sometimes too much additively, but never at the expense of Shin.

The end’s at her expense. And the finish—with the uninspired but elaborate nighttime action—doesn’t need any more disappointments. The Other One ends mid-stumble.

It’s fine and not the same old thing for a sequel, but it’s also long, dense, and sacrifices performances for world-building.

That said, I’m definitely onboard for another one. Can’t wait.

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