Hwayi: A Monster Boy

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User Ratings: 88

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Movie Info

The 16-year-old Yeo Jin Gu takes on the eponymous role of Hwayi, a boy who was kidnapped as an infant and raised in isolation by five notorious criminals.

Cast & Crew

Jin-Woong Cho
Ki-tae
Hae-Joon Park
Beom-soo
Ji-Eun Lim
Yeong-joo
Jang In-sub
Detective Chang-Ho
Jeong Hun You
Executive Producer
Joon-dong Lee
Producer
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Critic Reviews for Hwayi

All Critics (1) | Top Critics (1) | Fresh (1)

  • [in] the long-awaited return of director Jang Joon-hwan (Save the Green Planet!, 2003),...Hwa-yi's clothes express visually his longing for the normal childhood that has been taken from him.

    January 2, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Hwayi

  • Jun 07, 2016
    As I've always said, South Korea is the land of 1000 revenge thrillers. There's seriously so many of these movies out there that it's getting hard to distinguish between the ones that are several levels down from the truly elite thrillers like The Chaser, The Trilogy of Vengeance, I Saw the Devil, The Yellow Sea, among others. This is one I would say is at a level below those films I just mentioned and it's highly likely that, again, this will just blend in with many of the others not so great revenge thrillers from South Korea I've seen. With that said, I still thought this movie was actually pretty good. It's not gonna set the world on fire, but I liked the dynamic of Hwayi being kidnapped and raised by this gang, since he was 4 or 5, and how the gang themselves act as his fathers, even if they're people who do despicable things, for the most part, they try to do right for their 'son' and raise him the right way. Of course, however, there's some members of the gang, the leader, whose name escapes me right now, who wants him to take a more active role in their criminal activities. What I liked is how Hwayi sort of fights back against being forced into the gang's criminal activities, it doesn't sound great, and it really isn't, but I thought it was well-done, just sort of seeing that struggle with what his "family" wants him to be versus what he really wants. Hwayi, also throughout the film, is haunted by this monster, only in his mind, and trying to get rid of it is one of the major themes of the film, and how he very much wishes to get rid of it. The metaphor is a fairly obvious one. To get rid of the monster, you have to become the monster. It's not exactly subtle, but I think it gets the job done in showing just much the gang has pushed Hwayi to become this monster and how he rejects that and fights back against his "fathers" for making him this way. Again, it's not subtle, but it gets the job done. Another thing that is used is how Hwayi killed his biological father and how his biological mother is now being hunted down by hitmen. This is when the movie gets a little heavy on the drama. I don't know if I would call it melodramatic, but it does rely on more hammy acting, at least from the lead, than at any point in the film prior to that. These aspects of the film didn't do much for me and its tone is way too self-serious, but it's not as bad as it would've been in other films. The film is quite bloody and the action sequences that are there are actually quite good. Not super memorable or anything, but they're good nonetheless. The acting is pretty strong, outside of some overacting in the third act, so I can't really complain much. With that said, this isn't a perfect movie. It's got its flaws and I just didn't really get a sense that the "fathers" in question really had any sort of attachment to Hwayi. They told you they did, but they didn't really show it. Not a lot of time is really spent with Hwayi bonding with his "fathers", so it was hard to buy into that part of the film. It just didn't really work for me, in the slightest. But, as mentioned, this is still a pretty good movie if you can overlook some of its bigger flaws. Not flawless, but this is a perfectly enjoyable revenge thriller.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 02, 2015
    On the surface, Hwa-Yi(Yeo Jin-Goo) appears to be your average teenager. He is applying to art colleges while befriending Yoo-Kyung(Nam Ji-Hyun) by promising to make her school art project for her. At which point, he is embarrassed by his father Ki-Tae(Cho Jin-Woong) like so many other sons.. In point of fact, Ki-Tae is one of five fathers Hwa-Yi has, his being raised by a gang of criminals, dubbed The Daybreakers, who kidnapped him when he was an infant, and kept him after the ransom drop went decidedly sideways. Now, they have employed him in their latest job as a decoy where Seok-Tae(Kim Yun-Seok) has let a legally blind masseur(Woo Jung-gook) live, thinking he cannot recognize him. Detective Jung-min(Kim Young-min) feels differently. Proving that his previous film, the wickedly fun "Save the Green Planet" was no fluke, director Jang Joon-hwan follows that up with the violently entertaining and yet also thoughtful "Hwayi: A Monster Boy.". On one level, the movie provides the best cinematic nature vs. nurture debate since maybe 'Frankenstein' while also giving a thoroughly cock-eyed angle look at loss. Along the way, the director gives each of his major characters a notable introduction before juggling the stories of the gang, one other psychopath, a corrupt cop, an obsessed cop who could use a hobby and several other bystanders, innocent and not. Admittedly, it does not all perfectly work, as"Hwayi: A Monster Boy" works too hard at tying up every conceivable loose end and filling in as much back story as humanly possible. But at least there are car chases.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 25, 2014
    Korean cinema is the go to for the thriller genre. As saturated as it might be no other film industry has quite nail the genre quite perfectly as Korea bringing in new twists on familiar setups and avoiding any unneeded melodrama among other reasons. Hwayi is another one of those stellar action/thriller that succeeds giving high focus on the human side of its story giving the old revenge set up a revitalizing fresh take. Hwayi is about a boy who is kidnapped as a toddler and subsequently raised by a group of five criminals. Hwayi's relationships with his dads should form the backbone of the story. That isn't the case as their personalities are so hazily drawn even when reaching the hour mark. Rather the backbone is Hwayi discovering a dark truth and his transformation into a world he tries so hard to separate himself despite having been raised in it. There's more to it than just pure revenge often considering the ramifications of such actions on both side. The kidnappers all desire a different life for Hwayi from desiring Hwayi to follow in the criminal lifestyle or making an honest living. Each of the five kidnappers each differ in how they see Hwayi, but underneath the rough shell all share love for the child they raised. As determined as Hwayi is on his goal he's emotionally distress at the situation at hand. Morally correct he feels justifies towards his vengeance, but emotionally pulling the trigger on those who raised him is not a simple concept to convert into. It cares about the characters and their complicated relationship for one another allowing time to make it core character relationship have value to its action scenes. Where the film loses itself is length saturation. It isn't made evident until the overextended third act that the film could have been tighten better. A subplot that involves a detective searching for the criminals doesn't impact the film in a meaningful way. All the subplot does is reinforce how intelligent the criminals are as a team and reiterate information characters already figured out on their own. After a series of twists and a couple dead bodies later it reaches a climax that overstays its welcome. Clumsily written I wouldn't say as the pivotal point is effectively written bringing to nature the layers of the final confrontation. It's subtext is underlying a nature vs. nurture view as the protagonist feelings are complex and to a degree no better than from those he wishes to avoid. However, due to its climax dragging out and understanding the protagonist the expected inevitable outcome drags. Mid way through the climax it points are clear unsure of itself when to end the scene. Pacing is not an issue and while there are few set pieces moment there's a well written story with plenty to seek into. Director Jang Jun-Hwan style of the film correlates with the bleakness of his material. Sporting a very gloomy and gray color palette it rarely has any vibrant color to be seen. The same applies to his filming of an action scene most of which in confined location often with occurring at night keeping minimal distances from a fist fight or gunfight. Utilizing frantic editing to intensified the action scenes and clearance when a fatal hit strikes person. This isn't applied to the film chase scenes as it often follow the exterior of the cars from a far never showing the danger up head it drivers. Despite what occurs on screen the car chases don't duplicate the same level of urgency. Cho Jin-Woong, Kim Seong-gyoon, Jang Hyeon-seong, and Park Hae-joon quickly establish their respective characters right from their first appearance; Cho Jin-wong is one of few sympathetic characters in the film, and Kim Seong-gyoon is always on the edge with his possibly psychopathic character. Missing is genuine chemistry between him and Yeo, even when feelings of extreme love and loathing roil in their final confrontation. As an innocent who's sheltered, duped and pushed over the edge, Yeo sometimes overstates his character's pain and bafflement. Lim Ji-eun is pitiful as a woman confined in her hopeless position by her men and then by herself, Nam Ji-hyeon is a plucky high school girl who happens to begin a tentative relationship with Hwayi, and her scenes with Yeo jin-goo are a few precious warm spots in the movie. Hwayi is a very unique action/thriller with an original and exciting take on the father and son dynamic. It's more than a film about revenge more so than it is the delicacy of parenthood and how damaging it can for both sides. Cold and gloomy as it might be it's also a great action/thriller that offers a unique story and good set pieces.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer

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