It is the moment to shine for K-dramas and K-pop’s lesser-known sibling, Korean movies. “Seoul Vibe” is based on a bunch of misfits who are roped in by a prosecutor to find proof against some high-ranking officials suspected of storing slush funds. The movie is set in 1988, the same year that Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics. While the games themselves are not a significant part of the backdrop of the movie, they make an appropriate appearance, enough to justify the choice of the specific year of ‘1988’. The movie follows five individuals who are up against the entire world to carve out the life of their dreams. Neither of them cares about right or wrong, but each one of them is adamant about protecting their group, which is the family they have come to know. This is how “Seoul Vibe” unfolds.
How Do Dong Wook And The Gang Investigate Secretary Kang?
“Seoul Vibe” starts with Dong Wook and Joon Gi in Saudi Arabia, driving a car like their lives depend on how fast they can go. But they are just delivering some goods to someone, with every possible sign of the whole thing being illegal. It turns out, they were delivering guns. But it’s all in jest, and they leave for Korea, having earned a lot of money.
At the airport, they meet Bok Nam, one of their friends and a member of the Sanggye Dang gang. It is a spectacle to see the boys, with their oversized gold chains, fanning over McDonald’s. But they are spotted by the police, forcing them to leave behind their luggage and escape from the airport. The trio are joined by Woo Sam, who is a DJ, and Dong Wook’s sister Yooh Hee, who is the leader of the local biking club. Just as the group reunites, we are introduced to the character who sets the events of the plot in motion—Prosecutor Ahn Pyeong Wook. The style of this character is commendable. He lets the group know that he is completely up to date with all the times they have broken the law, and it is enough to put them behind bars for a long time. In exchange for their freedom, they must agree to investigate one of the most powerful people in the country—Secretary Kang—and find evidence of her corruption. Dong Wook explains that it is not enough to let them go; he must also give them visas for America, so that they can start a new life there. Once the deal is sealed, the next step is to participate in and win the secret test for their recruitment by Ms. Kang as drivers, which the group does, with a little bit of help and some “healthy” cheating.
All the previous drivers who worked for Ms. Kang, have been arrested by the police, and that is the reason she is looking for new people. The group is in charge of transporting the assigned goods, without asking any questions. Woo Sam, on the other hand, is employed as the DJ for the parties at that place. Ms. Kang is working with the ex-president, and they are both incensed at how the current president is out to find evidence against them and put them behind bars. The Secretary also has a sidekick- Lee Hyeon Gyun, who was the former Defense Security Command. He is a man who lives by his military values and is considered to be the best at following orders. As soon as the group is hired by Ms. Kang, he sets fire to their car and tells them to buy a faster and better one. Unknowingly, he also destroys their recorded tapes.
After this initial hiccup, the group sets out to do its job and is quite good at it, earning loads of money. They are also given an apartment by the Secretary as a reward for their hard work. It’s as if all their dreams are coming true. But one incident shakes them up. Lee Hyeon Gyun holds the group at gunpoint and questions them about the people they have been seeing. The group, however, maintains that they haven’t done anything. Things reach a boiling point when Hyeon Gyun reveals that it was all a test to find out if they could keep a secret. He tells them to resume their work. But this has made them take a second look at their situation. Dong Wook wants to stop the whole thing, whereas the others are still in two minds about it. Meanwhile, Woo Sam has obtained a blueprint of the keys of the safe where the ledger is kept that contains all the details of the activities of Ms. Kang. He comes to know about the group’s ordeal but encourages them to keep going as they are very close to completing their mission, leading to a huge confrontation between him and Dong Wook, but it ultimately comes together as the latter is the one who helps the group make a safe exit when they are escaping with the ledger.
Dong Wook and Woo Sam head to meet the prosecutor to hand over the evidence, but they hear screams coming from his house. Woo Sam tells Dong Wook that he will check the situation and asks him to go. As Dong Wook is making his way down the stairs, he sees the prosecutor’s body drop onto a car. He is shocked and coming to terms with the situation when he hears Woo Sam running and screaming at him to start the car. Dong Wook hurries to do so, but he can’t help it when Sam is caught by the thugs. He tells Dong Wook to escape and not think about him, which he is forced to do. On the news that evening, they see that they have been framed for Ahn Pyeong Wook’s murder as well as hiding a lot of illegal funds. They are literally being hunted by all of Seoul’s police. But for Dong Wook, it is not just a matter of proving their innocence or rescuing their friend. He wants revenge for the prosecutor’s death and everything that has happened to them.
So they make a plan. The first step is to rescue Woo Sam, who is being held by Hyeon Gyun. Dong Wook cleverly manipulated him into believing that he is being betrayed by Ms. Kang. Additionally, he has a recording that proves that Hyeon Gyun did not actually go to the military. These facts go against the entire image and the accompanying pride that Hyeon Gyun has built over the years. Dong Wook negotiates with him that he wants to be the one to make the final delivery. And that kicks off the second phase of their plan. Under the pretext of making the delivery, they get the money and release Woo Sam. As Hyeon Gyun figures out what is happening, the scene turns into a chase that ends with his car being blown to bits, but with an effect that somehow overshadows that morbidity with style and laughter.
‘Seoul Vibe’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Dong Wook And The Money?
And now it’s time for the final act. In a high-powered, adrenaline-filled scene that words can’t do justice to, Dong Wook gets on a plane with his car. Ms. Kang is in there, making her escape with the money. The sight of Dong Wook fills her with rage, and she starts hitting him. Dong Wook himself is slyly navigating the situation. His car is fixed with a camera, and he wants Ms. Kang’s confession that she is the one to whom the money belongs. As soon as he gets what he wants, there is another scene that reminds us of something. It reminds us of when we heard a certain Youtuber call K-dramas the “better Bollywood.” And this is the moment we completely agree with him. Because a car falling from the skies with the help of a few parachutes made us cringe and roll our eyes when we saw it in a certain movie, ugh, ugh, Race 2, ugh, ugh. But that very scene in “Seoul Vibe,” had us feeling excited and on the edge of our seats in anticipation of what would happen. The parachutes open just in time, and Dong Wook lands safely, after watching his life flash before his eyes in the brief seconds that he thought he was going to die.
With their names cleared, the gang goes to pay their last respects to Prosecutor Ahn Pyeong Wook. While leaving, each one of them reveals that they managed to save some money before losing it all in the plane. This means that the gang has achieved everything they set out to at the beginning of the film: their criminal records cleared, loads of money, and a chance at a new life. Let’s just say we have never been happier for a bunch of troublesome misfits than for the Sanggye Dang gang.
Final Thoughts: What Works For The ‘Seoul Vibe’?
What works for the movie is the sheer effort put into it. A group of delinquents required to be part of an investigation in exchange for their freedom is not an entirely new concept. But the makers managed to give it a fresh perspective. The detailing plays a very important rule in the success of the film. From the sets to the dialogues to the plot. Of course, it comes with a few fantastical elements, but they blend in seamlessly with the narrative instead of being jarring.
And the jokes landed, though we felt that some of them were lost in translation. However, a lot of that humor was centered around the “men and their toys” trope. It is amusing to women and relatable to men, which makes it work. Overall, it was a great watch. We had been craving for something just like this, and Korean cinema delivered. A special mention goes to Yoo Ah In for making the character of Dong Wook his own. And as much as we appreciated Ms. Kang, especially in the scene where she puts Hyeon Gyun in his place in a way most women have fantasized about doing every time a man has questioned their authority due to their being a woman, we have a question for the actress who played the part. Moon So Ri mentions that the director wanted the character to be more elegant, but she disagreed with him as she felt that Ms. Kang’s greed should make her more abrasive. What if we had gotten to see the director’s version? Ms. Kang had a quickness of reading people and situations, which was indicative of her intelligence and cold-bloodedness. What if the actor had taken the garb of ‘elegance’ for the character and let her ruthlessness be a surprise? She would have been a character to rival Dong Wook.
That aside, “Seoul Vibe” was a great movie, and we are going to nag our friends into watching it. Hopefully, they make a sequel, and we get to see more of this motley crew’s antics of dreaming big and following it up by risking everything to realize the said dreams. We will keep our fingers crossed for that.
“Seoul Vibe” is a 2022 Action Thriller Film directed by Hyun-Sung Moon.