“Keep it real.” Netflix’s newest slick and speedy Korean film, “Seoul Vibe,” is all about chasing after your big dreams and doing it with style. The laidback action-heist film certainly doesn’t mind taking its hands off the wheel every once in a while, as long as there’s a groovy mixtape playing in the background and just the right company around.
The group in question is the quintet gang known as the Sanggye-dong Supreme Team, led by South Korea’s finest hotshot speed racer, Park Dong-wook (played by Yoo Ah-in). The rest of the crew includes Dong-wook’s cheeky biker sister, Park Yoon-hee (played by Park Ju-hyun); the group’s goofy yet lovable car mechanic, Joon-gi (played by Ong Seong-wu); the highly optimistic, illegal taxi driver turned navigator, Bok-nam (played by Lee Kyu-hyung); and the hip, “Saint Paul of Korean mixtapes,” Woo-sam, also known as DJ Moonknight (played by Ko Gyung-pyo). Each member, dressed in colorful, stylish ’80s drip from head to toe, makes up the bona fide team that is always down for a sweet joyride through the streets of 1988 Seoul despite intimidating government corruption.
Just before the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, a chief prosecutor named Ahn Pyung-wook gives the Supreme team a surprise visit to their hideout spot in Bbangkku. After threatening them with jail time, Ahn tasks them with a dangerous mission to infiltrate an illegal money-laundering ring headed by corrupt government officials, Chairwoman Kang and former military nut General Lee. They are to pose undercover as Kang’s new mules in order to expose the slush fund that unlawfully uses citizens’ hard-earned money. Dong-wook, however, doesn’t want to do all this work for nothing. He convinces Ahn to provide him and his crew with U.S. visas because it is his long-time dream to race in the Daytona Continental, an American car race that all the world’s best drivers compete in.
As the gang grows comfortable in their new positions — earning fortunes for every car delivery, riding classic luxury vehicles and gaining keys to a very expensive apartment — the risky nature of the job proves to be worth it. But it all becomes too good to be true rather quickly. After a death and a kidnapping remind the gang just how deadly their mission is, the only thing they can do is fight back against Chairwoman Kang and General Lee, who eventually learn about their secret operation. On the opening day of the Seoul Olympics, the Supreme team pulls out all the stops for a final mission that exposes the true criminals in what is known as the “Seoul Vibe” plan.
“Seoul Vibe” is an action-packed, exciting film that maintains a distinct, retro feel throughout. The exhilarating car scenes, from the high-speed car chases to the masterful car stunts can be comparable to movies such as “Fast and the Furious” and “Baby Driver.” As the cars zoom, drift and fly through the air — quite literally — the fun is irresistible and doesn’t fail to get your heart pumping. Along with the mind-blowing car scenes, the banging soundtrack further contributes to the film’s “cool” factor. Woo-sam, the group’s designated music aficionado, creates ’80s hip-hop mixtapes for the drivers to accompany their ride. It is a smooth, stylistic choice that balances a light and heavy tone at just the right times. The movie not only wants to entertain viewers with thrilling stunts, but they want to make sure that viewers feel the vibe as well.
Additionally, there is a natural and easy chemistry between the Sanggye-dong crew as they work together, both as teammates and as a family. The casual banter and playful teasing between the five friends, and Dong-wook’s frenemy turned “hyung” (big brother), Galchi (played by Mino), give a refreshing, goofy side to the film that makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. It’s as if the audience is reminded not to take things too seriously as the story unfolds, because the characters still know how to have some fun along the way. Though the group comes across as naïve at times, they manage to stick to their guns and face their problems head-on instead of running away. The film’s director, Moon Hyun-sung, describes them as young Korean adults in the 1980s who wanted to achieve the “American dream.” He mentions in an interview with the Korea Times, “It’s related to the overall sentiment at the time in Korea: everyone wanted to have a big dream or was told to have one.” The gang endured many obstacles throughout the movie, which made their eventual victory at the end feel ultimately earned. The Sanggye-dong Supreme team undeniably knows how to “keep it real” when it comes to turning their dreams into reality.
“Seoul Vibe” is one of the many South Korean Netflix originals that has found success on the platform. The action-heist, comedy film ranked No. 8 on Netflix worldwide just two days after its initial release on Aug. 26. And currently, the film stands at No. 1 in its home country. Viewers’ and critics’ reactions to the film have been quite positive on Rotten Tomatoes with an 80% score from critics and a 74% score from audiences. Due to the wave of South Korean cinema taking over the world, which is informally known as “Hallyuwood,” it’s no surprise that yet another South Korean project has found success on a global scale. Netflix created the South Korean global smash hit “Squid Game” (2021), which became the platform’s No. 1 show of all time. Moreover, Academy Award-winning South Korean director Bong Joon-ho made an action-adventure film for Netflix called “Okja” (2017), which garnered positive reviews from both critics and audiences.
Netflix’s latest Korean movie, “Seoul Vibe,” is a worthwhile watch that is sure to be wildly entertaining and unforgettably hilarious. It’s a well-balanced blend of action, comedy and drama. With its star-studded cast, high-stakes narrative, insane car stunts, gorgeous cinematography and old-school, upbeat soundtrack, the film proves to be one of the best of its kind not only in the world of high-speed, heist movies but also in the ever-growing Korean film industry that continues to take the world by storm. And yes, it is also very much a big vibe.