Don’t let the technobabble title fool you, Fabricated City is the next great action film.
Let’s bitch it out…
Every year I manage to catch at least one ridiculously amazing Asian action film and this year’s entry, Fabricated City, proved to be no different. The film is about Kwon Yu (Ji Chang-wook) a young videogame addict (the screenplay’s term, not mine) who is falsely convicted of the rape and murder of a minor as part of a vast criminal conspiracy. After a brief stint in a medieval-looking prison buried into the side of a mountain, Kwon Yu engineers a daring escape in order to solve the crime, expose the real killer and clear his name.
This sounds a little cliche (The Fugitive anyone?), but what Fabricated City loses in aping the plot of successful action films, it more than makes up for with its killer balance of action, comedy and style. The film opens with an over the top videogame action sequence – complete with endless disposal bad guys, bullets and spare lives – evoking the final boss level of a sophisticated game. It does more than simply open Fabricated City with a bang, however; it foreshadows the climactic final sequence and establishes the team dynamic between Kwon Yu and his crew. Finally, the opening offers up a taste of the ridiculous action sequences to come, most of which defy gravity, physics and (often) belief, but are filmed in such a high-octane, explosive fashion that audience members who are willing to give themselves over are in for one hell of a wild ride.
The most challenging aspect of the film are the prison scenes, which are needlessly violent and, unfortunately, suggestive of male rape (a reductive trope that is unnecessarily exploitative). These scenes are difficult to watch: the film jumps right into the murder, conviction and harsh life of the prison within the first ten minutes. Throw in some dead mother action and the post-videogame sequences are a bit of a slog.
Luckily the action and comedy kick in full force when Kwon Yu escapes from police custody. The revelation that Mr. Hairy, the largest (physical) member of Kwon’s team, is actually Yeo-wool (Shim Eun-kyung), a shy and talented female hacker is a big deal for S.Korean cinema. Alas, the progressive nature of the casting doesn’t prevent Yeo-wool being used as a damsel in distress by the narrative and she is routinely threatened, beaten or kidnapped to incentivize Kwon’s actions. This gets a little tiring, even if it does lead to some of the best action sequences in the film (a fight in the dark using rice to identify individual locations; Kwon exploding out of a second story win Dow in his jacked up mini-car in order to recover her after an antagonist from prison grabs her, etc).
Yeol-wool and the rest of the Resurrection team are each given a distinct personality trait that makes them memorable and endearing (hers is that she will only speak to people over the phone). This tendency also extends to the ridiculously animated villain who pulls all of the strings. In a clear case of social commentary, the crimes are all being committed by the rich and powerful and pinned on low class, unemployed people like Kwon. The villain’s actions are deplorable, but his reactions are some of the funniest scenes in the film, such as when he admits that he’s turned on by the attempts to thwart him, then throws an epic temper tantrum when Kwon Yu hangs up on him (the phone bit is a recurring joke about how rude it is when someone hangs up on you).
The Bottom Line: Fabricated City is a fun, entertaining spectacle with a great blend of action and comedy. While the film is a bit of a slog in its opening act, the Resurrection team, a memorable villain and some over the top sequences help make this a wild ride at the theatre.