I watched Coin Locker Girl (aka Chinatown) (2015) on a plane between Bangkok and Perth. While the description of the movie suggested it would be dark, I did not expect the outright brutality that played out on my little screen. Was it any good? Read on and find out…
What’s it about?
Il Young (Kim Go Eun) was abandoned in a train station coin locker as a baby, and eventually found her way into the gang of Woo Hee (Kim Hye Soo) or “Mother”, a powerful loan shark and organ trafficker in Seoul’s China Town. Proving from a young age to be capable of surviving in even the most brutal conditions, Il Young is kept as part of Mother’s “family” as she grows up. However, Il Young’s loyalty is tested when she meets the bright, kind, and optimistic Seok Hyun (Park Bo Gum), who embodies a future she could never imagine.
The focus of this movie is on Il Young and Mother, and the rocky relationship between the two. Both of these characters are very interesting and strong female leads, something that is commendable to the writer. Whilst Mother has survived in the underground with her manipulative and severe nature, Il Young still has a strong sense of humanity that Mother lacks. However, she still has a survivor’s nature, and she’s tough enough to keep herself alive. Il Young is very emotionally engaging right from the beginning of the movie, and I found that once I started watching, I needed to know what happened to her.
Naturally, even the most engaging plot won’t mean anything if the actors aren’t capable of pulling it off. Fortunately, Kim Go Eun and Kim Hye Soo as our female leads are downright outstanding in this movie. I’ve previously seen Hye Soo in The Thieves, and I almost couldn’t believe it was the same actress, such was her transformation. As for Go Eun, her portrayal of Il Young is largely what makes the character’s story is so compelling to watch. The rest of the ensemble cast are also very memorable, particularly Park Bo Gum, and the other members of Il Young’s “family”; Um Tae Goo as Il Young’s “older brother”, Cho Hyun Chul as her brain-injured “younger brother”, and Ko Gyung Pyo as Chi Do, an antagonist.
Finally, I liked that this movie portrayed a darker, more realistic aspect of gangs and human organ trafficking. It certainly isn’t a pretty aspect of human life, but it’s one that happens worldwide, and the movie provides an interesting glimpse into it.
Personally, I found absolutely nothing to complain about in this movie. However, it definitely is not a movie that everyone will be able to sit through and stand, so you need to check out the next point…
Anything else I should consider?
This movie is extremely brutal, and has a number of gore elements in it. Although not a “horror movie”, it will invoke a sense of emotional horror in the audience as the film unfolds. If you really can’t stand cruelty or abusive themes, stay away from this film. If you do decide to check it out, and can’t stand the first few minutes of the movie, then don’t even try to watch through it, because it only gets worse.
Story: 8.5/10. The unravelling plot between Il Young and Mother is compelling and intense, and reaches a horrific and riveting climax.
Characters: 9/10. Although the supporting cast of characters is excellent, Il Young and Mother stand out as two strong, interesting feamle leads, whose dynamic makes this movie what it is.
I’ll say it again; this movie is not for everyone. It’s dark, brutal, and cruel. However, if you can stand this genre, this movie will provide you with an interesting plot based around two strong female characters that makes a very unique viewing. Although I hesitate to say I enjoyed this film, I can say it left a strong impact on me. Overall, I give it a 9/10.