When we cease to hear, we need a new environment …

Something deep inside of me speaks with the voice of the psycho: For who could ever love a beast?”

Zoe CruzBeastia

Voice  (2017) 
Also known as
Boiseu [/zilla_to

Crime,   Horror,   Tragedy,   Thriller
Written by
 Ma Jin-won
Directed by
Kim Hong-sun
Country of Origin
South Korea
16  +  2 specials

oh! … brief

While on a stakeout, Moo Jin-hyuk ignores a telephone call from his wife, Heo Ji-Hye. Following the successful arrest of a group of criminals, the detective and his team go out drinking to celebrate, unaware that his wife who managed to escape but is being hunted by a psychopath is in danger. Unable to reach her husband, Heo Ji-hye, who is disoriented and lost, calls the emergency call centre and reaches Kang Kwon-joo, a policewoman gifted with psycho-acoustic skills. Kang Kwon-joo struggles to understand and locate Heo Ji-hye and is forced to transfer the call to another member of the call centre team.

The error of that idiotic call centre operator causes the psychopath to locate Heo Ji-hye and brutally murder her using an unusual weapon. Unfortunately, Kang Kwon-joo’s father, Kang Kook-hwan, who is also a policeman and patrolling in a location nearby, responds to the call to locate Heo Ji-hye and in doing so he encounters the psychopath. Consequentially because of this unfortunate encounter, he is also brutally murdered.

A police investigation ensues and a suspect is located and caught in quick time. Kang Kwon-joo is instructed to lie in court when the case goes to trial, even though she vehemently advised prior to the trial that the suspect is not the murderer. Her conscience gets the better of her, Kang Kwon-joo does not lie and because of her testimony, the suspect walks free.

The story picks up three years later. Moo Jin-hyuk, the once accomplished investigator is troubled with guilt and bitter for revenge against Kang Kwon-joo who he believes colluded with the suspect to get him off. She, in fact, travelled to the US to hone her skills driven by a determination to return, restore her good name, and fix the errors that were occurring in the call centre. Her new position and her ability to employ Moo Jin-hyuk who’s professional and personal life is spiralling out of control, forces the two to work on a newly formed ‘Golden Team’. Together, they eventually become determined in uncovering the cover-up, police corruption and identity of the psychopathic murderer.

oh! … talks drama

Inspired by true events, but fictionalised for dramatic effect, this kdrama had me hooked from the very first scenes. And it wasn’t only because my favourite actor Jang Hyuk is cast as the male lead, although I must admit, I am slowly making my way through every production he has acted in, both film and kdrama. No, the genre and the subject matter are what initially attracted me. As an avid fan of criminal, horror, and thriller styled productions, there was no doubt I would inevitably watch Voice. Jang Hyuk was a bonus!

Ma Jin-won took a true event and spun such a horrific tale from it for the script. And the narrative is simply amazing, disgustingly so. The backstories of the main characters, from the detective, policewoman, psychopath and the criminals he manipulates, were outstanding. Ma Jin-won paid excruciating attention to detail to develop this story and employed side-stories (two episodes at a time) to build anticipation and keep the audience guessing. I was never disappointed! Watching Voice was both provocative and intense. In keeping the discovery of the psychopath’s identity until the story was well-developed.

Ma Jin-won earned my respect and kept me engrossed with the masterful plot turns. Like I already wrote, but will reiterate again, Ma Ji-won used exceptional creativity in the writing of this script.

The ‘bait’ deployed to heighten the seedy atmosphere and the thrilling aspects of investigating the bedrock of the criminal activity ongoing around the frenzied investigation into the murder of Heo Ji-hye and Kang Kook-hwan, was the careful writing behind seven cases that form the foundation of trust between the leading protagonists. (Eunhyung-dong Kidnapping Case (Ep 1-2), Burim-dong Child Abuse and Murder Case (Ep 2-3), Hongchang-dong Kidnapping Case (Ep 4-6), Surim-Dong Chunsoo Townhouse Murder Case (Ep 6-8), Gwangchang-dong Club Fever Hostage Case (Ep 9-10), Bangha-Dong Nakwon Welfare Center Case (Ep 11-12), and Accident of a Woogyeong-ri Case (Ep 14-15). Two episodes per case ensured a solid time was allotted to the development of each side-story and that’s why I alluded to the exceptional attention to detail. Also, each case allowed for trust and a working relationship to develop between Moo Jin-hyuk and Kang Kwon-joo.

Character development was above par by kdrama standards and I completely understand why the ratings for Voice set new records for the Orion Cinema Network. With every case investigated, the productions complex characters – protagonists, villains, and uniformed officers come to life and the complications of their lives and the levels to which they either rise or fall, grow with each episode and each individual case.

Both the overarching story and the clever side-stories are obviously well thought out, from start to finish. The many cliff-hangers and complexities of each episode gripped my attention and held me bewitched and repulsed in equal measure. The writing of seemingly genuine cases, with realistic play, no matter how graphic or horrific, became the foundation from which to build anticipation, fear, intrigue etc. It was an astute ploy on the part of the writer.

Director Kim Hong-sun had an amazing script to work from and he didn’t waste a single minute of airtime! The sound directing behind every scene is visible through the minute details the cameramen captured in their lenses. From amazing choreography of every fight scene to the horrific and oftentimes grisly detail of each case, it was all horrifically spectacular. I relished every facial expression of nearly every character – grimaces, pain, frustration, anger, resentment, cunning, the cameras captured it all – every emotion, all the unspoken body language, and then the obvious – the aesthetics of this dark kdrama.

The spectacular opening fight between stakeout detectives and criminals on the run was phenomenal and set the tone for every fight or sparring scene to come. I wonder if, Jang Hyuk, who is an exceptional fight master in his own right being a practitioner of Jeet Kune Do for more than 10 years and a former professional Taekwondo athlete, choreographed the fight scenes or in some way assisted with the choreography? He is multi-talented and I can never seem to praise him enough, whether it’s for his acting skills, his mastery of martial arts or that he manages to maintain his privacy and keep his personal life out of sight of mainstream South Korean media.

Because of the horrific nature of the crimes involved in each case, including the murder of Heo Ji-hye and Kang Kook-hwan, the special effects and make-up play an important part of this kdrama. You won’t be disappointed. There are many graphic injuries, blood and gore, as well as a few corpses neatly wrapped in plastic. The violence and gore, along with knives, guns and any other item that can be used as a weapon are featured. For a kdrama, it is incredible to see (even blurred out) so much detail in the gory aspects, and most of it realistically reflective of actual injuries and real-life violence and gore. It is somewhat graphic for the faint-hearted, but avid horror fans like myself, won’t bat an eyelid as it is still somewhat conservative compared to Hollywood productions.

I appreciated the efforts put into the costumes of the characters. The choices reflected, or, further painted the personality of each character. For example, our detective hero, Moo Jin-hyuk was dressed casually and sometimes appeared to be rather dishevelled. This doesn’t reflect his style of investigation, but rather the spiralling out of control of both his mind and his personal life. As things start to come together, his style changes. For Kang Kwon-joo, her outfits, both the smart police uniform and her personal style casual non-work clothes reflect her steadfast and precise confidence in both her ability and her knowledge that in the murder case involving Heo Ji-hye and her father, she is not wrong. For our psychopathic murderer, the detailed costumes of his dual personality are spot on. Suave sophisticated businessman with snappy suits and dark hooded jackets and pants for most of his kills. Sometimes, the costumes give away before the acting does, the true nature of a character – watch for it and see if you can guess their ultimate role!

The soundtrack that accompanied this production included a song titled after the production, “Voice” by Kim Yoon-ah, “My Ears are Open” by Changmo, and “Word Up” by Kim Young-geun among other background musical pieces. The three mentioned here are great numbers, and the background music was chosen well to deliver the right atmosphere or create build-up and tension. Once again, director Kim Hong-sun excelled in his choices.

The cast for the entire production was large and most characters were well-chosen and delivered performances that demanded attention. The acting was consistently favourable, with several remarkable or noteworthy performances, some of those in minor or supporting roles. I believe thought and effort were put into the choices for every single character. Some were obvious wins, a few were iffy, but generally, most were soundly made.

It comes as no surprise that Jang Hyuk was cast as Moo Jin-hyuk as the role is almost perfectly written for an exceptional actor and in my opinion, there is no other that could have excelled in this role. Jang Hyuk is immensely talented and such a natural actor that he outshines every other South Korean male actor in both drama and film, if not the entire Asian industry. In this role, as an embittered man but avaricious detective he gave an animated and heartfelt performance. He inhabited every aspect of his character, including some annoying flaws, But, this was to be expected given his accomplished and prolific career. I don’t need to convince you that he delivered an organic portrayal of his character, if you know him, you already know how fantastic his performances can be, and if you don’t know Jang Hyuk, my question to you is, “What rock have you been hiding under?” As Moo Jin-hyuk, the avaricious detective, he gave us a fervent and dogged man determined to solve the mystery behind his wife’s horrific murder.  As Moo Jin-hyuk, the embittered man he gave us a rousing characterization of loss, sorrow, anger all while trying to balance the demands of his work with the nurturing of a sick child.  As Moo Jin-hyuk, partner to Kang Kwon-joo, he portrayed a bitter man with a tenacious wrath, distrusting but desperate for answers and understanding. As Moo Jin-hyuk, hunter of a psychopathic murderer, he painted both stubborn perseverance and tenacious sleuth to perfection. I love Jang Hyuk as an actor. He never ceases to amaze me with each performance and has been as skilled at the start of his career as he is now. Like I said, he is a natural actor and by far the South Korean drama and film industry most talented asset.

Lee Ha-na played the productions second protagonist Kang Kwon-joo. This was my first time watching Lee Ha-na, and I don’t see another kdrama or film on my list that will feature her. While I struggled with her character’s psycho-acoustic skills, I feel she pulled off the scenes where she displayed her unique ability. The writing of her character could have been stronger, but, having said that, I do believe she interpreted her character’s idiosyncrasies and the essence of the character’s personality wholly to deliver a stellar performance. Is she in the same league as Jang Hyuk? Not even close, but she was able to hold her own.

Murderous psychopath Mo Tae-gu was played by Kim Jae-wook. Another actor who I watched for the first time, but someone I will see again as I now know he’ll be featured in other kdrama and film on my list. Of course, Kim Jae-wook’s dashing good looks are somewhat distracting, but not enough to have drawn attention away from a remarkable performance in a somewhat smaller lead role than his two compatriots. His performance was scarily realistic. Kim Jae-wook’s characterization of Mo Tae-gu, the intelligent and somewhat charming businessman hiding his true nature as a predatory, sadistic and murderous psychopath was horrifically fascinating. I had no trouble believing Kim Jae-wook’s delivery of a callous and calculated aggressive young man. He emoted so well. Those uncanny smiles and long deep stares. But, it was the snarled lips and vicious smirking that really got to me. It’s frightening to believe that this type of man exists in our real world and isn’t just the horrible imagining of a skilled writer. I was impressed by Kim Jae-wook’s understated performance which has such great impact on the overall story.

A close friend to Moo Jin-hyuk and partnered detective, Shim Dae-shik, Baek Sung-hyun dominated his character’s complexity. I approved the casting for this character and almost cheered. He complemented Jang Hyuk’s animated performance with his own refined and balanced depiction of Shim Dae-shik. A more muted and laid-back character, Shim Dae-shik is one of at least three characters in the production that is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Baek Sung-hyun’s interpretation and delivery were so discerning he had me entirely convinced. He mimicked the perfect ‘leak’ to perfection. If he doesn’t have you fooled, it’s only because you read this review!

oh! … sidekicks

The cast list for supporting characters is extensive, but I will share some of the actors and actresses that stood out for me for their sound performances.

Heo Ji-hye was played by Oh Yeon-ah and she was outstanding. Her performance in the opening scene had me cringing in fear for her life. Oh Yeon-ah mimicked fear perfectly and used body language to express how terrified and in despair she was. It was an honest interpretation of the situation.

Moo Dong-woo the sickly son of Moo Jin-hyuk was performed by Lee Si-woo. It was a notable performance by this young lad. I cherished watching the interactions between Lee Si-won’t character and Jang Hyuk’s. There were some tender moments in all the craziness and they were shared between this father and son duo.

Yesung played Oh Hyun-ho, the new IT specialist of the “Golden Team”. Yesung delivered a sound performance and brought a few smiles with his cheeky flirtations, sweet demeanour and those cute smiles of his. He was entertaining to watch!

Another “Golden Team” member was Park Eon-seo, a language specialist who was played by Son Eon-seo. I didn’t understand the importance of this character initially, and she was rather annoying with her haughtiness, but later things come together in the story. Son Eon-seo gave a good performance in this role.

The violent crime team members included Jang Kyung-hak played by Lee Hae-young. Jang Kyung-hake is the chief of the unit and a guy manipulated by a mysterious individual for a bad decision he made. Lee Hae-young was exceptionally good in this role. I wanted to like him but sensed he was up to no good. Park Joong-ki was played by Kim Joong-ki and was one of the violent crime detectives. The team had unique individuals and they all performed well, but as a unit, they weren’t effective without Moo Ji-hyuk. Kim Joong-ki ‘s performance was solid. Kim Pyeong-Jo another team member was played by Baek Cheon-ki.  Baek Cheon-ki delivered a good performance in his role. Song Boo-geun was another member of the violent crimes team and this character also had an honest performance but I couldn’t identify the actor behind it. Not a member of the team, but in a position of power over all the policing divisions including the violent crime unit was Bae Byung-gon. This character was played by Jo Young-jin. I disliked this character immensely. He was such an ineffective leader and had been strategically placed for political reasons, but was useless and incompetent. Jo Young-Jin delivered a noteworthy performance.

The mother and adopted son duo of the Burim-dong child abuse and murder case were exceptional. The mother, Oh Soo-jin was played by Bae Jung-hwa and she terrified me with her performance. I was really scared for the poor boy she was abusing. That boy, Son Ah-ram, was an adopted child and as their story unfolds, the grisly reality of child abuse comes to light. Choi Seung-hoon played Son Ah-ram and was especially good. His performance was about as genuine as it could get. I see a bright future in this kid.

In the Surim-dong Chanson Townhouse murder case, another mother-son story unfolds. Lee Yong-neo (an actress that keeps growing on me for her solid and unusual character choices) played a double role as Park Bok-soon and Shim Chun-ok. She was amazing in this role. But, that’s no surprise she is a talented actress, I must see if I can find something she’s in that isn’t a supporting or minor role. Her son, Shim Young-woon was played by Shin Seung-hwan. It’s really difficult to play mentally disabled individual, but Shin Seung-hwan did such a fine job.

A man called Tabloid was a police informant and was played by Choi Ki-sub. He gave a strong performance.

Some of the bad guys included Nam Sang-tae, the CEO of GP development. Set up and manipulated by the psychopath, this character was played by Kim Roi-ha. I so disliked this character but also found the interpretation to be flawed. Half the time I caught myself thinking, “Really?” when watching this actor deliver a weak and flawed performance. His acting was excessive and over-the-top most of the time. Because he was central to the story, it was disappointing but didn’t go as far as to distract from the overall production. Sad though, either the direction behind this character or the actor’s interpretation was off.

Fantasia’s owner, Hang Gyu-ah was played by Yoon Ji-min. It was about as good a performance as could be expected from this minor role. I’d have liked to see more of the backstory and relationship with Chairman Mo Gi-beom, the psychopath’s father. Lee Dae-Kyung played Mo Gi-beom and his performance was much like Kim Roi-ha’s. This is why I’m leaning more to misdirection for these bad guy roles. Lee Dane-Kyung would have had a much better performance if he had toned down the excessive acting. It was off-putting, but, because of the story, this character was key to the kdrama. I expected better and was also disappointed.

oh! … that’s a wrap

The combination of a solid script that allowed for the strong foundation to work from, detailed and accurate direction (for the most part), fantastic fight and chase choreography, exceptional cinematography and stellar performances delivered one of the best kdrama’s I’ve ever watched, so far at least. There was none of the kdrama clichés except for characters bent on revenge, but, even then it’s not your typical revenge story. I was hooked to the end, and entertained by every plot twist, the cases that were designed to be the background to an ongoing investigation. It was cleverly played out and a huge success for me, but, also on the whole.

If you like criminal, horror and thriller genres, then you’ll get a kick out of this production. I recommend it. It is added to my collection and I will watch this again and again. Yes, mostly because I’m a Jang Hyuk fan and love his work, but equally because this was a strong and well-written narrative.

oh! … tidbits

In addition to setting new records in ratings for OCN, Voice is one of the highest rated dramas in Korean cable television history and ranked first among cable TV dramas for many consecutive weeks.

But the Voice wasn’t without controversy. Halfway through the series, the growing numbers of viewer complaints meant the kdrama was submitted to South Korea’s censorship board and an advisory warning was added to the start of each episode. In addition, it’s original age restriction rating was raised from 15+ to 19+ for some episodes (episodes 11,12, and 16).

Jang Hyuk who I mentioned is a martial arts practitioner of Jett June Do (JKD), a martial art form founded by Bruce Lee and heavily influenced by his personal philosophy and experiences.JKD practitioners believe in minimal movement with maximum effect. The choreography of the fight scenes in Voice mimic this and that is why I believe Jang Hyuk had some influence over the choreography if not entirely choreographed the scenes. Anyone who knows martial arts understands that martial arts should be like water, moving fluidly without hesitation. Jang Hyuk is like that!

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailer

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