Let’s Talk About THE TRUCK.

Posted by Peter Hall - January 23rd 2009 @ 10:59 am

I learned two things about Seoul today.  One is that the Korean economy is on such a dire spiral that ceiling high separation gates are being installed on subway platforms to curb the rising number of businessmen throwing themselves in front of trains.  The second is that it is damn near impossible to buy a legal DVD in a store.  The first item has nothing to do with the second or the ultimate trajectory of this musing.  I just found it surreal.

One of the things I wanted to do while in Seoul was prowl a DVD store and bring back an entire catalog of interesting looking unknown quantities.  Turns out the only way to purchase a movie in the city is by literally browsing a catalog of ink-jet printed DVD jackets at a road side booth.  It was about $7 for 4 movies so I fingered THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, two titles recommended by the guy I was with whose English titles I know not, and then THE TRUCK, which judging by its DVD cover looked like a movie about either a possessed truck or truck driving killer.  It turned out to be neither.  It’s actually only barely a decent watch, to be honest.  All the same, I want to talk about it for a few reasons.

For starters, with no discernible link on the IMDb and shy mentions on Twitch, English language info on the flick is hard to come by and since it isn’t that good anyway, expect little else to emerge.  For closers, I want THE TRUCK to be remade Stateside.  I want it remade in a bad way.  I want it remade in an impossible way.  I want it remade twenty years ago when Eric Red was tied to a different world than he is now.  I want to re-write it, slide it into a time machine and have Kathryn Bigelow direct it.  I don’t want to remember this pussyfooted Korean film, I want to remember a hard boiled, odd-ball bit of ’80s road horror.  THE TRUCK is begging to be remembered that way.

Spoilers incoming.  Well, spoilers for a movie you’re never going to see, so who cares.

As it stands, the Korean version of THE TRUCK (I say Korean because in my mind an alternate already exists) is about a truck driver who gets caught up in a scheme hauling a truck bed full of dead bodies for the mafia in order to pay for his daughter’s life-saving heart transplant.  On the way to his mountain side dumping grounds, said driver passes an overturned police transport.  Afraid of getting caught with the bodies, he forgoes calling an ambulance and gets back on the road, only to slam on his breaks a mile down for a man lurching into the headlights.  Said man is a police officer from the crash who then repurposes the eponymous truck for the pursuit of the now escaped serial killer being transported.

Of course, the police officer he picks up is actually the serial killer, switching the tracks to that of a cat and mouse game, only to have the driver jump tracks again by revealing to the serial killer (falsely) that he too is a killer and has a truck bed full of punished souls.  The real killer then forces the fake killer to drive him around on an accidental killing spree, cornering the unlucky driver into committing murder to avoid a knifing himself.

Unfortunately, I’m making THE TRUCK sound a lot cooler than the Korean version is.  Or maybe I’m not.  Maybe this is a stupid story no matter what.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I dig its rail jumping path, but regret its poor execution.  It takes almost half an hour to get going and despite having a plot setup ripe for intense confrontations is not thrilling at all.  The acting is droll, the killer as intimidating as yawn and there is a whole ‘nother one step behind police investigation angle I won’t even bring up.  The direction of the picture is way off, but the script is almost there.  With a few nudges, plenty of tightening and the right guiding hand a new take on THE TRUCK would be badass.

The pacing of the original is slow and unsteady, but I’ll give it credit for introducing a new bend every time it starts to drag.  It’s boring watching this cargo hauler attempt to cobble together the medical fees at a last-effort poker game, but then he stumbles into a room in which a dozen or so people have just been butchered.  It becomes boring watching him attempt to sweat it out at road blocks, but then he finds the overturned police van.  It becomes boring watching him try to hide the truth from the cop killer, but then he pulls back the tarp on a dozen bodies.  It becomes a give-and-take struggle, but then one of the bodies is still alive.  It beco– you get the idea.  It’s the picnic basket song equivalent of a script, chaining together a left-field recital of conflicts until resolution becomes less and less logical.

Amp the pressure, though, and we’ve got a classic on our hands.  Can’t you just picture it in your head?  I know that in the plot twist loving world of today, all those jumps would seem silly, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  As long as we agree such a project could call the late eighties home without breaking a sweat, we can learn to love the schizophrenia.  Everyone likes a fun bit of road horror.  Stupid science says a time machine is out, so let’s make it happen.  Or am I spending way too much time in a hotel room by myself and have lost perspective per the makings of cool?

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  1. William Goss
    January 23rd, 2009 | 10:31 pm | #1

    No, you’re totally making this sound cooler than you made it sound.

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