‘Seoul Vibe’ Review: A Catchy But Overlong Messy Racing Adventure

Seoul Vibe

South Korea is back again with more content for Netflix, so welcome to the review of Seoul Vibe, a new film that is now available on the streaming platform. The movie brings a great cast, playful humor, and fast cars to Netflix’s library. Car racing has been very popular in Asia for decades now. An entire subculture has been created around cars and how to improve their performance and look in ways that the original fabricators never intended.

So, seeing a movie that takes part in one of these subcultures and places its major characters in it doesn’t really come as a surprise. However, Seoul Vibe is so much more than cars. The film tries to mix various elements that seem somewhat mismatched and hopes that the result looks somewhat consistent and cohesive. The movie fails in this regard, but nevertheless, its approach to the story and the characters can be enjoyable. Sadly, Seoul Vibe finds many bumps on the road.

Seoul Vibe is directed by Hyun-Sung Moon, and stars a massive cast that includes performers such as Yoo Ah-in, Go Kyung-pyo, Lee Kyu-hyung, Park Ju-hyun, and Ong Seong-wu, among others. The film tells the story of a group of car enthusiasts who, after proving their amazing skills as drivers, are recruited by the Korean mafia to make illegal deliveries. As the team becomes more and more involved with the criminal organization, their lives will be changed forever when things take a sharp turn.

Seoul Vibe

Hyun-Sung Moon, has been a feature director for almost a decade, but his work has never really managed to stand out among the massive number of projects that South Korean cinema delivers each year. Sadly, Seoul Vibe might also fall into this latter group that gets trapped in obscurity. The film does a lot of good things. It feels familiar in a way that makes you feel comfortable; it is at times quite funny, and also the film has an amazing cast o wonderful actors that do their best to bring the energy of the story up.

However, Seoul Vibe is quite messy when it comes to executing the story it wants to tell, and it just mixes too many elements into the same pot to actually end up with something that says something. This means that in the end, Seoul Vibe feels empty; there is no message, memorable characters, or even a memorable plot. Everything feels very familiar and very tame. You could say Seoul Vibe is as bland as frozen vegetables.

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For example, the movie begins by making sure that you know that the movie is set in 1988. The movie uses this precise period in time to bring to light an entire reserve of political and social issues that affected the country during that year. On top of that, it also points out how important it is for the movie that the story is being set on the eve of the Olympic Games in the city of Seoul. All these elements are presented as very relevant, but in the end, they are merely footnotes to the overall story.

That is the biggest problem with Seoul Vibe. It tries to be more than what it is, and by doing that it muddles everything. A simple story of thieves getting themselves into trouble would have been so much more interesting than the messy melting pot that we got at the end. The movie doesn’t know if it is focusing on the racing aspects of the movie or the criminal aspects, or even the social-political issues. The plot just jumps everywhere all at once, and it never develops any of these elements in a satisfactory way.

Seoul Vibe

The production values are quite solid, though. They are especially effective when the movie needs to transform the modern city of Seoul into its past version of 1988. The city is very different between those two time periods, but the movie manages to transform it in a believable way. Yes, sometimes the use of a green screen can be too noticeable, especially during the action sequences, but somehow the effort wins over the final resort during these moments. Lacking charisma isn’t one of the movie’s issues.

Towards the end, the movie tries to transform itself into a crime thriller. It even tries to develop itself into an action movie but fails to do so because while the action sequences are in there, the team behind them is quite talented. The references are just too obvious. Just like Peninsula, before it, Seoul Vibe even steals some shots from Mad Max: Fury Road and even the entire sequence of Fast 6 and tries to pass it as something original. It isn’t.

In contrast to those movies, Seoul Vibe feels amateurish. The actors do as much as they can, but the characters are so underdeveloped, closer to cartoons than real people, that there is no sense of danger during these final sequences. You know deep inside your heart that everything is going to be fine and dandy. Characters are always one of the most important elements in storytelling. Without them, there is no story, and without them, there are no stakes.

Seoul Vibe tries but fails to be the quirky, fun action movie that it wants to be. The cast is good enough that it might be worth watching just for them, but South Korea has done so much better in the past when it comes to this type of movie. Seoul Vibe feels like a step back.

SCORE: 5/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.