The Unfair (also known as Minority Opinion) screened as the penultimate movie in the Korean Novels on Screen season at the KCC. Based on a novel by Son Aram, it is the only film in the season where the underlying book has not (yet) been translated into English.
Although the scenario is based loosely on the Yongsan tragedy (in which five protestors and a policeman died when a combined eviction operation by a police SWAT team and hired thugs went tragically wrong) the movie opens with a statement that the events are entirely fictional. This is perhaps prudent in view of Lee Myung-bak’s uncompromising approach to criticism and the cultural blacklist drawn up under Park Geun-hye: in this film the bad guys are the authorities who are trying to suppress justice and truth. There are enough similarities with Yongsan that Korean viewers will be in no doubt as to what events are being referenced, but enough differences (for example, only one person is on trial) to distance the film from true-life events. That distancing seems to have worked, because I cannot find Kim Seong-je’s name on the version of the blacklist that was floating around 18 months ago.
Kim Seong-je previously served as producer for No Blood No Tears (2002) and scriptwriter on Blood Rain (2005) and this is his directorial debut. And a very professional job it is. The Unfair is a fun way to spend a couple of hours of your time, and presents an engaging portrayal of an inexperienced but persistent underdog legal team taking on an establishment determined to get a quick and convenient conviction by all means possible.
None of the actors have any serious work to do, except for perhaps Lee Kyung-young who brings some emotional depth in a supporting role as the defendant, who as well as being accused of killing the police officer has lost his own son in the mêlée. Instead, all the interest is in the investigation itself, with the defence team trying to amass sufficient evidence of wrongdoing by the authorities while navigating the unpredictable behaviour of a journalist (played by Kim Ok-bin) who is more or less on their side but more interested in getting a scoop, and countering the underhand tactics being used by the prosecution.
Inevitably, all the evidence and arguments have to be assembled against a deadline. Pacing is for the most part is about right, but whether it was the effect of the editing or of the uncomfortable seats in the KCC, the film as a whole felt about five minutes too long.
Overall, the movie is interesting for its contemporary relevance. But with its London screening taking place so close to 1987 When the Day Comes, which has the same David v Goliath scenario and so much more besides, and when we are deluged with high quality police / courtroom procedurals on the TV, there is not quite enough that is memorable in this movie to make it stand out from the crowd.
Kim Seong-je (김성제): The Unfair, aka Minority Opinion (소수의견, 2015)