THE GUEST (2016) review

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Im Dae-woong’s Sino-Korean thriller The Guest stars Leon Lai as Kai, an executive who’s made to take the fall for his company when his subordinate makes a grave professional mistake. Now out of a job and owing a hefty sum in compensation to the company for which he’s been working tirelessly for years, while having just started renting an upscale apartment with his wife Lin Lin (Han Chae-young), he goes out and gets drunk to forget his troubles for a few hours. Finding himself completely wasted in the middle of the night, he’s picked up by a mysterious, unregistered cab driver (Geng Le), to whom he drunkenly rants about his professional woes. The cab driver lends him an attentive ear, and the two even stop on the way for some more drinks. But Kai hasn’t got his wallet with him at the moment, so he gives the driver his business card, telling him they’re now friends and he’ll pay him the next day. He doesn’t yet know how much the cab driver is going to take these words to heart…

The Guest brings to mind another recent Sino-Korean thriller, Ahn Sang-hoon’s The Witness, in that it’s very competently produced and acted, but has a plot that plays like the last two decades of cinema didn’t happen, in that it harks back to late-eighties, early-nineties stalker thriller like Fatal Attraction or Unlawful Entry, with absolutely no new spin or fresh ideas to add. Thus you have the attractive, well-to-do couple (an uninvolved Leon Lai sharing no chemistry with Han Chae-young): he starts the whole thing by giving a weirdo with affective disorder and a violent streak (an effective turn by Geng Le) the wrong idea, and she provides immediate stakes by being in constant danger. There’s a sprinkling of gory violence for the shock value (here a few hammer murders), and a hint of backstory for the weirdo. The proceedings are actually so rote, that one keeps expecting some big twist to come. It doesn’t happen, and though never really boring, The Guest is impressively unmemorable, if you’ll forgive the oxymoron.

Long Story Short: A competent but forgettable thriller, The Guest brings absolutely nothing new to the already dated formula of stalker thrillers. **

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