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Jae Hee as an ass-kicking ghost hunter in Mandate

Mandate: Mission From God


맨데이트: 신이 주신 임무

Year: 2008  

Park Hee-Joon


Park Hee-Joon, Choi Seung-il-I


Jae Hee, Yoo Da-In, Shim Won-Cheol, Lee Soo-Ho

  The Skinny: This low-budget supernatural thriller will find audiences who like their horror cheap and cheesy, but it won't do much for anyone else.
Kevin Ma:

Director Park Hee-Joon proves that a small budget doesn't go a long way with Mandate, a supernatural thriller that tells us what the director of Dream of a Warrior is up to after seven years - and really, that may be the best thing the movie does. Even actor Jae Hee, who chose this to be his last film before fulfilling his two-year military duty, is clearly slumming here as a smooth, constantly posing ghost hunter who looks like he can kick some ass. With a nonsensical, yet simplistic script with numerous plot holes, Mandate is nevertheless well-paced entertainment with a low-budget and a trashy charm that will divert fans of C-grade horror and movie drinking games.

Jae plays Choi Kang, a renowned ghost hunter who travels to a small rural village in his jeep to hunt a legendary ghost called Tang. Tang has an ability to possess people's bodies, turning them into people with bloody teeth and the ability to brutally murder villagers. However, the cops, except for aspiring ghost hunter Chan-Soo, don't buy Choi's reasoning and are ready to pin everything on their latest suspect, who has committed suicide.

Meanwhile, journalist Shin has also arrived in town to investigate the murders, and she's also carrying a device around that allows her to capture some ghosts of her own. Turns out that Shin is also the other great ghost hunter – who is not-so-secretly named Shin – and her mission is to capture Tang as well. However, with Tang's ability to possess anyone he wants, not to mention the cops' skepticism, it'll be pretty hard to hunt him down, even with Korea's two top ghost hunters on the move.

However, in C-grade horror fashion, Park essentially boils down the supernatural fight of the century to a series of martial arts moves and lots of cool posing in the middle of an empty field. First, the viewers have to sit through over an hour of inconsequential police procedural with no real investigative work being done before even getting to that climax. Not even the ghost hunter himself actually makes any effort to find Tang beyond showing up at crime scenes and driving around town. How can the filmmakers expect anyone to care about the central mystery in the film if even the protagonists don't seem to care?

To be fair, Mandate is more a supernatural thriller than a supernatural mystery, but there's really not much here to get thrilled about. Aside from some of the bloodier murder scenes, the film doesn't offer much in terms of scares or exciting action sequence. Park is so obviously restricted by his budget constraints that the most money spent on makeup goes to giving the actors' rotten teeth to show that they've been possessed by Tang. While the writer-director tries to tell his paper-thin story with style (the first murder scene is visually interesting), the biggest frustration is that the film would've been an admirable attempt had he tried to make something ambitious with his miniscule budget. Instead, the laziness starts at the script level, with Park and co-writer Choi Seung-il-I not even attempting to do very much with the little that they have.

Considering the above, it's a surprise that Mandate moves at a painless and brisk pace. The film runs a short 86 minutes and never feels a minute longer. Also, even though the film lacks the self-aware humor to make it a successful cult film (or even a good film to watch while high), it never drowns itself in seriousness. This is especially worth noting, considering that the opening logo for producer Mega Pictures states its religious affiliation (apparently Christian), and yet the film not only features gory scenes of women getting stabbed, but also corrupt cops and a liberal use of a pistol.

On the other hand, the so-called “Mission from God” (the film's alternate English title) is seldom mentioned, and there are barely any religious elements throughout the film. Still, despite avoiding blatant didacticism and keeping the process painless, there's not all that much worth praising in Mandate. Not only is the film dissatisfying on most counts, it's also lazy and incoherent. However, there's surely an audience for Mandate, and even if they aren't the members of Park Hee-Joon's church, that audience will certainly find something to appreciate about the film. They just might have to do so under the influence. (Kevin Ma, 2009)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Fantom Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable Korean and English Subtitles

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image credit: Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen