An intentional riff on Baby Driver staring Park So-dam and Jung Hyeon-jun, two of the most internationally recognizable faces working in Korean cinema thanks to the globally acclaimed Parasite, Park Dae-min’s Special Delivery first came onto my radar in July when it made the rounds on Film Twitter thanks in part to high praise from screenwriter C. Robert Cargill (Sinister, Doctor Strange). “A must for Asian action movie fans,” he claimed. Hesitant because I’ve learned my taste and Cargill’s dramatically differ, it still piqued my interest. The high-energy trailer looked like a fun time—and I thought Park So-dam, as the sister in Parasite, was the film’s best talent after Song Kang-ho.
While it’s a perfectly decently entertaining hour and a half, unfortunately, it might not even be the best Korean car-based film of 2022—a far cry from a “must watch.”
Recently added to Rakuten Viki, a free streaming service for movies from various East Asian countries (which also has a cheap “Plus Version” and early access rentals), Cargill was at least level-headed in comparing Special Delivery to two beloved movies: Baby Driver’s crazy get-away car antics with a good-natured driver unwittingly caught up in a crime syndicate meets The Man from Nowhere’s mysterious protagonist with a special set of skills and seemingly no personal history who unwillingly befriends a random child who happens to be in the crosshairs of even more dangerous criminals than themselves. If the two scripts were loaded into the corpus of an AI script generator, the robot would spit out Special Delivery, which stars Park So-dam as the ambiguous criminal get-away driver named Eun-ha and her child-actor co-star from Parasite Jung Hyeon-jun as the boy in danger (Seo-won).
Following the lead of Baby Driver, the editors compose car chases in which the viewer can actually track the car in real geographical space, as opposed to the random chaos edits of things like the later Fast and Furious movies. The film’s at its best here, and thankfully the film is ever so patient in the time spent here. Park So-dam plays an excellent and fashionable cool girl with just the right amount of coldness for the part to come together, even if there’s a dearth of interesting characters to support her.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers learned the wrong lessons from the more morose The Man from Nowhere—opting to borrow character themes and plot points rather than tone or emotionality. The latter is more like John Wick or Taken than the fun, quippy South Korean crime-romp sub-genre that Special Delivery refuses to separate itself from. There is a disconnect between the screenplay’s generally traumatizing and dystopian pulse and the fun, kinetic beauty on screen—which makes the upscaling of violence in the final act even more disarming. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call Special Delivery anti-cinema, an international box-office filled with “Marvel-ized” John Wicks and stripped down Baby Drivers sounds like the exact sort of thing Martin Scorsese fears.
Thankfully, at only 109 minutes, it’s not a complete waste of time—especially if a tattooed cool-girl driver Park So-dam sounds redeeming enough to you.
dir. Park Dae-min
Available for rent on Viki.