If you just started checking out South Korean cinema and television series (that took you long enough), you might simply recognize Korean-Canadian actor Choi Woo-shik as Ki-woo or Kevin on Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film, “Parasite.” Last week, Netflix released the dystopian crime thriller “Time to Hunt” where a brunette Choi sports neck and hand tattoos as an amateur armed robber named Ki-hoon. If the premises of these two movies are to your taste, I’m happy to say that the rest of his filmography are equally exciting and thought-provoking. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Okja” and “Train to Busan.”
If you’re looking to see grittier and not as widely released offerings of South Korean Hallyuwood, let these movies with Choi Woo-shik in the roster be your introduction to its bold and underrated world.
“The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion”
Choi Woo-shik stars opposite “Itaewon Class” lead actress Kim Da-mi on mystery action film “The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion.” Kim plays Ja-yoon who lost all her memories after escaping a government facility from a young age. She decides to compete on national television to win money for her family and that’s when things start turning south again. Enter Nobleman, Choi’s mysterious character and yes, the guy featured on the numerous Woo-shik fancams on Twitter. Kim scored several acting awards for her work here, so you know she’s brought her A game in this.
“Set Me Free”
Choi’s first big break was bagging the lead role for the 2014 South Korean autobiographical coming-of-age film “Set Me Free.” He plays Yeong-jae, a teenager who’s forced to leave a group home because he’s over the age limit. Although he isn’t religious, he enters a Catholic boarding school to avoid going back to his father. He learns that his dad also left his younger brother in the group home and this becomes his breaking point. For his portrayal, Choi won awards, including “Actor of the Year” at the 19th Busan International Film Festival. Get ready to cry your eyes out with this one.
This 2018 period monster flick is set in 1527, under the reign of Joseon’s King Jungjong. There are rumors of a creature called “Monstrum” roaming Mount Inwangsan. It’s up to the kingdom’s most trusted general and his chosen officers, one of which is Choi’s Hur, to keep their land safe. The true appeal of the movie is how it kept the audience guessing whether this is based on a real account from the annals of Korean history.
“The Divine Fury”
Mystery, fantasy film “The Divine Fury” is like “Fight For My Way” meets “Constantine.” Choi only has a cameo appearance as Father Choi but this is like a cool sort-of throwback to his and longtime friend Park Seo-joon’s rivalry in the K-drama “Fight For My Way.” Park is Yong-hoo, a mixed martial arts fighter who finds himself partnering with a priest to battle demons. This is a pretty cool addition to the horror-action genre.
Choi Woo-shik isn’t playing a lead role on “Secretly, Greatly” but it’s just too fun not to add to the list. This action drama-comedy follows the story of three North Korean spies who disguise themselves in South Korea as a village idiot, a rock musician and a high school student. The movie takes a dramatic turn as they refuse orders to take their own lives and face being hunted down. We kinda wish we got more of Choi but we’ll take what we can get.
If these films piqued your interest, do us both a favor and stop sleeping on South Korean cinema. It has so much to offer.
Art by Dana Calvo
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