Korean Movie The Client Review and Comparison to Primal Fear (1996)


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The Client was a movie starring Jang Hyuk that I was really looking forward to watching. I was really curious about this movie because the premise reminded me of the 1996 popular American movie Primal Fear. I wanted to know how similar it would be and if the outcome would be the same. I was also curious about any similarities there might be in the portrayal of the main suspects in each movie.

Edward Norton’s performance in Primal Fear was unreal. He was fantastic and really caught me by surprise. I was only 12 years old when I watched Primal Fear, so I must admit I only remember it vaguely. I haven’t re-watched it since, but now I think that I might have to. I had faith Jang Hyuk would perform as well, but I wanted to see how he would make this character his own (which he did). Both performances were great, and Jang Hyuk’s character is not a clone of Edward Norton’s by any means, but there are some similarities.

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I should emphasize, these are not the same movie. The plot is different and so are the suspects, but they are comparable.

Quick Comparison

Primal Fear Quick Sypnosis

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Martin Vail (played by Richard Gere) defends Aaron Stampler, an alter boy (played by Edward Norton), charged with murdering a Catholic archbishop. Is he guilty or not? Is he a sociopath or is he a victim of abuse who is mentally ill?

The Client Quick Sypnosis

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Likewise as mentioned in the above, Han Chul-min is being accused of murder (played by actor Jang Hyuk). In this story, they believe that he has murdered his wife. He is a quiet man that many suspect because he shows a lack of emotion. He’s also very suspicious because he has no fingerprints and none of his DNA was found in his own home. Kang Sung-Hee (played by Ha Jung-woo) defends him and many hidden truths start to unravel. This makes us wonder, is this some sort of elaborate cover up? Prosecutor Ahn Min-ho is convinced of Chul-min guilt. 

… And so do both stories unfold…

So, yes, there were similarities but many differences as well.

***This section is not SPOILER proof**** Do not read ahead if you don’t want me to ruin either movies for you.

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Here’s where the stories drift. Edward Norton’s character has a stutter and it’s revealed that he has suffered sexual abuse through the church. The Client doesn’t go down this road at all. Unlike Norton’s character, Jang Hyuk’s character is calm, composed and very quiet. I’m going to go even as far as to say that he’s elegant. Now, here’s where the similarity lies; They are both covering up their true identies with these facades. They are both actually, indeed sociopathic murderers. This isn’t revealed until the very end. So, both movies lead you to believe at the beginning that yes, they are probably guilty, then you start to believe their innocents, then Wham! Right at the end the truth comes out and they are both evil geniuses.

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Here’s where the Client slightly disappointed me and perhaps this makes me a sick individual I’m not sure; I didn’t want Chul-min to get caught at all. So the verdict comes in and he’s found not guilty. After that all the pieces come together and at the very end  Sung-Hee helps the prosecutor get the evidence he needed.

Now, you may wonder why I didn’t want the evil sociopath to get caught: Shock factor. Primal Fear had that shock factor when Richard Gere realizes he was utterly fooled and it’s too late to do anything about it. Aaron Stampler is deemed insane but reveals that it was all an act.

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Chul-min was really a genius too. He played everyone perfectly and shed many heartfelt tears on the stand. This was in fact his second murder (that we know of). I think if they let him get away with it, it would have made it so much more dramatic and disturbing.

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Jang Hyuk is stressing me out with his death and pain scenes. This actor portrays pain all too well. There’s a scene towards the beginning of the movie where Chul-min tries to hang himself unsuccessfully. I really didn’t like watching this. Whether he was guilty or not, he really looked like his was in physical agony and was about to die. It hurts me inside to see him like this!

jang-hyuk-smoking-the-client

I won’t state one actor better than the other, because I loved both of their performances and both were very different. I think both movies are worth watching if you haven’t seen them. Brilliant acting! Bravo! I tip my hat to you both.

My Rating for both movies: 4/5

16 thoughts on “Korean Movie The Client Review and Comparison to Primal Fear (1996)

  1. Eh, now that you are expecting me to comment, I have to!! Not that I didn’t want to 😛

    Well my argument was more like…I don’t think he is innocent, but I don’t think he is guilty either. In my interpretation, the movie didn’t give us any answer. It just got us ‘convinced’ that he is guilty, but never showed the truth. And I think that was exactly the whole point of the movie. Because the whole point of the movie, to begin with, was ‘the case with circumstances but without evidence’.

    To begin with, Han Chulmin looked very guilty and everything would make sense if he was guilty, but there was no hard evidence to prove it. And the lawyer comes in, he is also not sure if this man is guilty or not, and as it goes on I think he has been convinced that he is innocent…either by brain or by heart. And then bam! He ‘realized’, or in my argument more was like convinced, that he was actually guilty. And same works for the audience, who was following the lawyer’s view. Because the lawyer was convinced, audience also is left thinking he is actually guilty. But do we have hard evidences? After the court scene, where the lawyer was convinced he was innocent and was happy with his victory, the only ‘evidence’ they found was that Han knew the dam. So Han ChulMin has been to that dam, and that fact itself cannot prove that he’s the killer. But that small fact causes all the connections in the lawyer’s brain, and he makes up the logic that Han indeed is the killer. Which totally makes sense! Cuz to begin with, all the circumstances made sense if he was the killer. But that doesn’t mean it is the absolute truth. I mean, in the end, the movie didn’t show them actually finding the dead body. It just ended right before it, and without the dead body or weapon, the case is ‘still open’, according to the lawyer’s previous argument.

    All the scenes with Han as a killer, showing how he killed his wife, is also not necessarily what ‘actually’ happened. It’s what the lawyer thinks happened, or what Han Chulmin said. That’s my argument, because throughout the movie, those flashback scenes were based on people’s testimony or what people know until that point, and they tended to change as the testimonies change. Also, think about the tooth. The wife cries over the found tooth of the dead girl, she cries because she realized that her husband is the killer…..but is this scene the truth? Did that actually happen? If it did, shouldn’t the tooth be one of the evidence? If a tooth has indeed been found, and if people actually know about its existence, there’s no way it hasn’t been brought up as the hard evidence. Therefore I claim that the flashback scenes are what people believe that happened.

    And yes, Han Chulmin did testify at the porch that he killed the wife, cuz the lawyer recorded it. But can that fact alone prove his guilt? Testimony itself alone can’t be the proof of guilt. When a defendant claims he’s innocent, that claim doesn’t carry enough power to make himself innocent, so why should a defendant’s claim that his guilty make him guilty? Also, he did state in the court, that at some point even he was thinking himself guilty. Because everyone told him so. It is actually proven in several actual cases, that innocent defendants were convinced they are guilty after being blamed to be guilty. So he might’ve actually got convinced that he’s guilty, when he saw the lawyer most definitely believed he was guilty and was questioning him. Or, maybe he just gave up. He saw the lawyer being so convinced that he’s guilty, and that lawyer was the one and only person in the world who would be on his side and claim he’s innocent. Maybe the moment he found the lawyer seeing him as the killer, he just accepted to be the killer. “You are looking at me with those eyes again”, says Han Chulmin, and he just tries to jump out of porch. Maybe he indeed was innocent, maybe that’s why he tried to commit suicide in the beginning and in the end.

    These are all far fetched arguments, and I don’t think the movie expected audience to work this hard to argue Han is innocent. But I do think that it was the movie’s intention to never clearly prove his guilt. And I think that’s what was great about Jang Hyuk’s acting in this movie, because you think he’s a killer and rewatch the movie, you see the killer through out (I saw Han’s killer side throughout the movie, including beginning part, when I was watching it for the 2nd 3rd time) but if you think he is innocent, you see innocent Han Chulmin. The poor guy who attempted suicide, who got arrested and beaten up by police just becuz he looked like a killer, who got beaten up in jail, who is feeling doubtful glances in everybody’s eyes. And whether he really is innocent or guilty, the movie never provided hard evidence, it just invites audience as jury.

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    1. You need to write more reviews. You are the queen of analysis. OK, so I can’t argue with you. You are right. They never actually prove his guilt. Also, I don’t think Chulmin technically confessed. They show the “flashbacks” but does he actually ever say “I killed her”? I don’t believe so. I watched it again and he doesn’t say the words. He quietly listens, smirks and tries to kill himself again. He says a few things, but no confession. So what actual plea do they even have? If this is true, and they have no proof, then why is the attorney so cocky at the end like they got him? What can they actually charge him with? There’s no tooth, no body and I think no confession. Only the hint of a confession by propping himself on the balcony speaking the truth without actually saying it. So, that means Chulmin really is the evil master mind and the ending is what I had hoped. Maybe he does get away with it after all. Interesting, very interesting. I think he’s guilty but can’t be proven guilty because he’s a sick warped genius.

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      1. I was also wondering if he had talked or not. The scene was done in such a way that at first I assumed that the flashback was his confession. But maybe it was just the lawyer’s imagination. But why did they arrest him then? The dam thing is really not evidence of anything, I think. I did not realize there was a recorder, which means I really need to watch this again 😊

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      2. Boo! Ya, it’s kind if confusing. I think i’m going to chose to believe that the lawyer thinks he confessed, but when they go to listen to it there is no real confession and he walks. If it was real life of course I would want them to catch him, but because it’s a movie I want to think of it this way 🙂

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      3. Yeah or maybe he confessed, although I didn’t quite get how he gor rid of the body! wasn’t he just dragging her on a sheet? Gosh I’ll have to watch again! Btw I just watched Primal Fear! wow! really good! I have more things to say but I’ll come back after I rewatch The Client again

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      4. Ya, I guess he would have had to drag it after he went to fetch the body that he threw over the balcony. Would that be loud in you through a body down who knows how many floors? In a busy city you’d think some cars and people would be out and about even late. Not a flawless story but maybe we r thinking about it too hard.

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  2. Dear Z, like I was telling you on twitter, I have not watched Primal Fear and now I definitely will. It sounds very interesting. About The Client, I definitely need to rewatch because I’ve forgotten important details, and I’ve sort of forgotten the end. However, the other day I was talking about it with Gumi, and she started giving arguments as to why this is still ambiguous towards the end. Like, if you watch the movie again, but convince yourself that Chul min did not kill his wife, the story still kind of works. At first I thought, really? Nahhh, but the end totally reveals that he did it right? didn’t he sort of confess? but Gumi has really solid arguments that made me believe that there is still 1% of possibility that he wasn’t guilty :p I bet she will comment later and we can speculate together. I will try to watch this when I’m done with work so it is fresh in my memory. .

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