Netflix’s Believer 2 is the much-anticipated sequel to 2018’s Korean action thriller film of the same name. As Believer left viewers with an inconclusive ending, the sequel provides more context and understanding to the last scene of the 2018 original. Unlike usual sequels, the events of the new film do not take place after the ending of the first but are placed before the final scene from 2018, essentially meaning that both the Believer films have the same, or similar, last scenes. Believer 2 is an overall enjoyable watch because of its action and high production value, and it is an absolute must-watch for fans of the first film.
Plot Summary: What is The Film about?
The 2018 Believer film introduced us to South Korean police detective Jo Won-ho, who intended to bring down the biggest drug network in Southeast Asia, run by a mysterious Mr. Lee. As nobody knew who the real Mr. Lee was, and a number of criminals had pretended to be the drug lord over the years, Won-ho took the help of an ex-employee of the man, Seo Young-rak. As it turned out, by the end of the film, Young-rak himself seemed to be the real Mr. Lee, while a different drug smuggler, Brian Lee, had been handed over to the police as the notorious drug kingpin. Although the police department officially ended the case, Won-ho wanted to investigate further, for he wanted to find Young-rak, whom he believed to be Mr. Lee. Young-rak had gone missing, and the only way to find him was to track his beloved dog, Leica. Believer then ended with a scene of Won-ho finally finding Young-rak at a secluded house amidst snowy landscapes.
Now, in Netflix’s 2023 film Believer 2, the plot unveils a set of incidents that took place between the time Young-rak went missing and when Won-ho was finally able to find him. While the earlier film made it seem like these two incidents occurred within a short span of days, the new film confirms that a number of other complications and resolutions had taken place within this time. Soon after Brian is arrested by the police and is kept in a hospital under police surveillance, his trusted employee, Eun-gwan, breaks into the hospital and frees the man, who is then reunited with his private team and is nursed back to health. But Brian’s business has been completely hampered, for all his money has been taken away, and his contacts in the Ewoo Shipping company have been killed.
Both of these actions have been performed by Young-rak and his two close associates, the deaf and mute twins, Manko and Rona. Young-rak wants the Chinese drug dealers to come after Brian, as the latter’s deal with Ha-rim had not been completed, so the Chinese would definitely capture Brian. In the meantime, Young-rak intends to take over the raw materials left behind at Brian’s factories since every other stash has been confiscated by the police. Although he finds the tracker on Leica’s collar very early on, Young-rak decides to keep it with himself in a deactivated state, for he knows that Won-ho’s help will be necessary in the future. On the other hand, the police detective Won-ho continues to desperately search for Young-rak, even going against the orders of his superiors.
Who is Big Knife, and what happens to her?
Very early into Believer 2, Young-rak himself states that he is not the real Mr. Lee and that he, too, is in search of the real drug kingpin. Therefore, Young-rak is also a pretender who has used the identity of Mr. Lee for his own benefit, just like every other criminal before, but the man is also very determined to find the real Lee. It is Young-rak who first introduces the character of Big Knife as he shows her photograph to Manko and Rona. He believes that Big Knife will be the one to lead them to Mr. Lee, making it evident that the woman has some connection with the drug gang leader.
So-cheon, who is more popularly known as Big Knife, is a notoriously violent drug dealer in China, as she works as a director in the gang of the real Mr. Lee. Big Knife and Jin Ha-rim, the Chinese drug smuggler seen in the previous film, are step-siblings, but the sister has always been extremely jealous and vengeful against Ha-rim. The death of Ha-rim, as he was killed by Won-ho, does not affect Big Knife emotionally, and she is only concerned about the financial losses that his death has led to. The money and the raw materials are all lost, and no batches of the Leica super drug have been received in return either, making it an extremely tough situation for the syndicate. Big Knife is informed about Young-rak, who has stolen the money and is also able to manufacture the Leica drugs, and she is confident that she will be able to convince him to make the drugs for her.
Once Big Knife comes over to South Korea, she immediately meets with Brian, who is also currently looking for Young-rak, to exact his revenge against the younger man. Brian now states that his stash of raw materials and his network are still intact in Thailand and that the group should move there. Furthermore, he tells Big Knife about the skills of Young-rak in cooking up Leica, suggesting that she should get the man kidnapped, and then they all should move to Thailand, where Young-rak will make batches of Leica for Big Knife. The ruthless woman agrees to this plan and raids one of Brian’s factories in Korea, where Young-rak, Manko, and Rona had been holed up. Incidentally, the twins take the still-injured pet dog for medicine one morning, and it is during this very time that Big Knife attacks the place. She kidnaps Young-rak and takes him to an extensive hidden drug factory in Thailand, where she orders Young-rak to make batches of the Leica drug in the next few days.
Big Knife has a particular emotional attachment to her boss, Mr. Lee, and this bond is what makes her significant to the plot of Believer 2 in the grand scheme of things. The woman had always been fascinated by the older Mr. Lee, and she had been extremely determined to be in his good books. Big Knife often mistakenly refers to Mr. Lee as her father, and this suggests that the woman looks up to Lee as a paternal figure whose love and attention she has always craved throughout her life. Big Knife was so obsessed with the man that she hated it when anyone else in the gang was praised or appreciated by the boss. For this reason, she had even once falsely tried to frame her own stepbrother, Ha-rim. Whereas it was always Big Knife, who was more impulsive and therefore more of a trouble for the gang. The woman still remains loyal to her boss, and she even contacts Mr. Lee to inform him of the developments in the Leica production.
However, Young-rak was very aware of this special emotional weakness of Big Knife, and he had planned for this entire situation. He had teamed up with Brian, and the latter now gets hold of Won-ho, who can trace Young-rak’s location through the secret tracker. Around the same time Brian and Won-ho reach the factory in Thailand, Big Knife has already made the call to Mr. Lee, meaning that Young-rak does not need Big Knife any longer. Young-rak now fights Big Knife, and he manages to kill the woman.
What was Brian’s plan all along?
After the death of Big Knife, Brian and his team outnumber Won-ho and Young-rak, so they are immediately held captive by Eun-gwan and the others. A more detailed plan that had been in the works is now revealed. Around twelve years ago, an incident shook up the entire Lee gang when a criminal impersonating Mr. Lee was killed by Ha-rim and Big Knife. This was apparently according to the direct orders of Mr. Lee, who had entrusted the step-siblings with the responsibility of wiping out any impersonators. Both Brian and Young-rak were present at the place during this time, and to them, the possibility of getting away with crimes by pretending to be Mr. Lee became very apparent. Thus, both of these men had acted as the real drug lord in the past, and both of them had been looking for the real Mr. Lee.
As he is held captive, Young-rak reveals that getting caught by Big Knife and being brought to Thailand was all part of his plan, as he wanted to get closer to the real Mr. Lee through this scheme. The fact that the twins were away during Big Knife’s attack on the group proves his claim. However, Brian was not really just a pawn in Young-rak’s ploy but was instead making his own master plan throughout this whole time. Brian wanted to find the real Mr. Lee only with the intention of killing the man, as he wanted to take over the entire drug business. He knew that Young-rak would be looking for the man, too, and he had made this plan of getting Young-rak kidnapped by Big Knife. Now that Brian has Young-rak entirely at his mercy, he orders the younger man to seek out Mr. Lee and kill the drug lord for him. Brian and his gang also keep the twins hostage until Young-rak kills Lee, and therefore, he has no option but to agree to the plan.
Why was Young-rak looking for Mr. Lee?
Unlike the other criminals who were searching for Mr. Lee either to get his attention or to kill him, Young-rak had a completely different intention. As explained in Believer, Young-rak was actually an immigrant who had been forcefully sent to Korea as a young boy, sealed inside a shipping container. The boy’s parents had also been shut inside that same container, and they were found to be dead upon the container’s arrival in Korea. Since the couple had been drug addicts, their deaths were simply waved off as overdoses, but the real truth was very different.
Young-rak’s parents, who were Koreans living in China, were actually business partners of Mr. Lee, as they were seemingly all running a drug trade. However, Lee then betrayed the couple and put them in a shipping container along with their young son. The man intentionally gave the couple some food and water that had been mixed with high amounts of drugs, and therefore, Lee murdered the couple. The young boy, who later got the identity of Young-rak, had figured out this betrayal, and thus, he wanted revenge on the real Mr. Lee.
Young-rak finds Mr. Lee through Big Knife’s call to the boss, who has been living a rather straightforward life in Norway despite being such a high-profile criminal in Southeast Asia. The man, whose real name is Lee Yang-gwak, has a daughter and a granddaughter, both of whom Young-rak murders before he goes to meet with him. Although Brian had technically sent him on this mission, Young-rak has always wanted to kill Lee and get his revenge. As a final attempt to save himself, Mr. Lee offers to work together with Young-rak, but the latter refuses. The drug kingpin tries to pull out a gun from his special copy of the Bible, but Young-rak is faster at reaching his gun and shooting Mr. Lee dead.
Does Won-ho kill Young-rak in the end?
Much like the criminals, police detective Won-ho was also trying to find Mr. Lee, but with the intention of arresting the kingpin. Together with his team, he first finds out about the parents of Young-rak and their connection with Lee. Tracking this lead further, Won-ho reaches a school in Busan, where the man used to work, and then is led to another address in Thailand. The Thai spot is covered by Big Knife and her men, and Won-ho gets kidnapped from there. Later on, he is left behind by Brian’s gang inside the factory, and Won-ho is found by the Thai police.
While recovering in Thailand, Young-rak’s tracker becomes active once again, and the detective grows determined to catch him once more. Won-ho travels to Norway and tracks down the isolated cottage where Young-rak has been staying with the twins, and this is the exact scene that was shown at the end of Believer. After news of Lee’s death reached Brian, he set the twins free, although in extremely injured conditions, as one had been maimed and the other blinded. Won-ho sits down with Young-rak, who speaks about having achieved his life’s goal—to kill Lee, who had murdered his parents—and yet feeling empty inside. Ultimately, Young-rak picks up his gun and points it toward Won-ho, but this time, the detective is quicker to respond, and he shoots Young-rak dead. But as Won-ho checks Young-rak’s gun, he finds it to be empty, just like he had suspected.
During Believer 2‘s ending, Won-ho does kill Young-rak, but it is all part of the latter’s plan. Young-rak had brought out an evil side to himself only to take his revenge, and now that he had done so, his life’s purpose was also served. Therefore, Young-rak wanted his life to be ended, and what better way than to get it done by the police detective? The earlier 2018 film showed Won-ho walking out of the house, but the ending of Believer 2 shows him being shot dead by one of the twins, who had just found Young-rak’s body. Therefore, both Young-rak and Won-ho are dead in the end, and thus ends a tale of betrayal and revenge.