Ryu Jun-yeol just keeps making hits : The ‘A Taxi Driver’ star is back with another blockbuster performance

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Ryu Jun-yeol just keeps making hits : The ‘A Taxi Driver’ star is back with another blockbuster performance


After finding success through retro tvN series “Reply 1988” (2015), actor Ryu Jun-yeol shifted gears, mainly focusing on film.

Following the drama’s success, the 31-year-old starred in a number of tent-pole movies like crime flick “The King” (2017) and “A Taxi Driver” (2017), which sold a whopping 12.18 million tickets becoming the only release to sell more than 10 million admissions last year.

Continuing his success with comfort movie “Little Forest,” released in February, Ryu returned with crime action feature “Believer,” directed by Lee Hae-young of “The Silenced” (2015).

Reviews for “Believer,” inspired by Johnnie To’s award-winning “Drug War” (2014), are mixed. While some critics praise the film for managing to combine drug and crime cliches into an interesting and creative movie, others say the development of the story is unconvincing and is too preoccupied with the vital twist at the end.

Although he remains humble, Ryu stands out as one of the strongest performances.

“For me, I can’t really watch films I starred in because my appearance prevents myself from fully immersing in the movie,” said Ryu during an interview held in central Seoul earlier this month. “Through ‘Believer,’ I hope people think that my acting is gradually improving.”

Centering on persistent police officer Won-ho (Cho Jin-woong), who has spent many years tracking down a mysterious drug organization, the movie unfolds as the organization’s two members - Rak (Ryu) and Yeon-ok (Kim Sung-ryoung) - narrowly survive a bombing believed to have been committed by the crime organization’s mysterious leader. In fear of another attack, the two appeal to the police. With the pair’s help, Won-ho attempts to finally catch the drug organization’s ring leader, Chairman Lee, whose identity is unknown.

Throughout its 123-minute runtime, the movie sheds light on Won-ho and Rak’s journey to catch Lee. The dangerous journey involves the pair encountering a secretive figure in the organization, Brian (Cha Seung-won), and a Chinese drug tycoon (Kim Joo-hyuk) and his sidekick (Jin Seo-yeon), whose shared insanity is reminiscent of the Joker and Harley Quinn.

A taciturn character that barely speaks or shows any emotion, Rak definitely wasn’t the easiest role Ryu has played.

“At first, I though Rak was a very difficult character. He is different from many other roles in that there’s no specific detail on his background,” said Ryu.

The only information audiences are given about the character is the fact that he was raised by a Filipino couple who found him inside a shipping container. Though he was loved, Rak was merely a replacement for the couple’s lost son, and was given the same name and birthday.


Ryu Jun-yeol, left, plays a member of a mysterious drug organization, who helps a detective (Cho Jin-woong) track down the organization’s ring leader. [NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD]

“But [not having the background story] also means that Rak discovers who he is following the development of the film,” said Ryu. “I understood Rak to be a very lonely character. I tried to pull out the darker sides of myself,” said Ryu, admitting that it wasn’t easy because he is such a bright person in real life.

His effort fortunately paid off, as “Believer” topped the weekend box office, toppling the mighty “Deadpool 2.”

Ryu is scheduled to return to the big screen later this year with two completely different roles. In “Ppaengban” (working title), which refers to a police team that specializes in investigating hit-and-run accidents, the actor will play a police officer. In “Money” (working title), Ryu will appear as an ambitious rookie stock broker.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
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