I've become wary should any Korean movie call or tout itself as the largest action movie for the year. Remember the woeful debacle of Typhoon? Well, it seems that Fate belongs to the same mould, with the assembly of the best looking men the country has to offer, and put them in roles against each other, topped with plenty of angst, misunderstanding and failure from which they find it hard to crawl out from, and you have what hopefully could bring the crowds in.
And not to forget too, the poster with the half-naked men laughing while showing off their sculpted abs, which had adorned our train stations for weeks before the movie's debut (and in which a cigarette had been photo-shopped out to appease local authorities it seems). Song Seung Heon plays Woo-Min, a hotheaded man whose charisma and tenacity makes him the de-facto leader in his gang of four. His plan with his brotherhood of merry men, as we see in a thrilling opening, was to break into a casino's vault, and make off with the loot.
They succeed of course, thanks to sheer brutality and prowess in fisticuffs and metal pipe wielding, but with betrayal in the form of Kwon Sang Woo's Cheol-Jung, they get caught up, and disbanded. Fast forward to two years later, Cheol-Jung continues as a hoodlum with a higher rank, while Woo-Min gets released from prison, bitter towards the former for his lack of loyalty. While the story might fit into a typical John Woo movie, it lacked any further set action pieces to make you sit up. What you get, in terms of action, are metal pipes upon metal pipes swinging wildly around, and that too being few and far between. Worse, it decided to dwell a lot on the typical melodrama of troubled relationships with each of their loved ones, with Woo-Min being unable to forget his ex, and taking it upon himself to lift his friends from their respective doldrums, and Cheol-Jung having a field day with an uncouth mouth, as he battles it out with his workers on strike on a failed construction project.
For the most parts, these two loggerheads steered clear of each other, and the story lacked efforts in wanting to build up on their disgust for the other. It attempted instead for the audience to try and sympathize with their individual predicaments, and that they have circumstances in which they are driven to make their choices, but even so, there's a lack of connection between the two men, and the audience is denied any satisfying climax of a settlement. While the characters in general are all unlikable - going to show that it's what inside that matters - instead it brought to mind of the vultures that circle around, waiting for opportunity to pounce when the chips are all down.
For that bit, I'd have to give it some credit. Otherwise it was really painful to just watch the macho men getting around trying to solve their respective wimpy issues, or just using violence as a means to an end, since after all, they're just gangsters with little soul, and you really couldn't care much about how their characters develop, and only wish for the film to quickly get to the finale of its 120 minute run time.