Review. The Client explores if circumstantial evidence is sufficient for justice to be served.
Synopsis. What if you came home to find police swarming your house and your wife missing but copious blood indicating foul play? What if you were arrested but all the evidence was circumstantial ? Could your attorney establish reasonable doubt? This is the basis for The Client.
More Details. The Client is a 2011 Korean film about a pursuit of justice and its key players – the prosecutor Ahn Min Ho (Park Hee Soon), the defense attorney Kang Sung Hee (Ha Jung Woo), and client/defendant Han Chul Min (Jang Hyuk). Chul Min’s wife body isn’t found and there is no physical evidence against Chul Min. However he is arrested and tried. Can Prosecutor Ahn prove his guilt? Can defense attorney Kang prove his innocence? Is Chul Min guilty? Will he be found guilty?
What I liked about The Client:
Enough facets to the story. You’ve seen this story before. But it was crafted by writers Lee Choon Hyung and Sohn Young Sung with enough facets to keep you guessing what the truth was. The Client asked the question is it better to free the guilty rather than let the innocent go to jail? Director Sohn Young Sung (who co-wrote the screenplay) took a measured approach to finding the answer.
Ha Jung Woo as defense attorney Kang Sung Hee. Does it matter if a defense attorney believes his client’s innocence or guilt? Isn’t their job to represent the client and fight the good fight? Attorney Kang and his crack team of investigators looked hard for evidence to prove the innocence or guilt of their client. Attorney Kang was smart and savvy in the courtroom.
Check out what director/writer Sohn Young Sung had to say about this character in an interview (link):
Q. Ha Jung-woo’s Attorney KANG is a fascinating character. What kind of process did you go through to create it?
A. There is a special story behind it. The final portrayal of Attorney Kang is very different from the original version that’s in the script. I should say that I became more and more drawn in by the character Ha Jung-woo was creating. The original character carried the image of an immature “youngest of the family”. He’d burst out in anger at his assistant clerk, but was still cute at the same time. But in the completed film, he’s more like an elder brother. Kang in the movie knows he shouldn’t be hot tempered as he can easily turn the atmosphere tense and serious. While we were shooting, I realized the character had to go in that different direction as I observed the way Ha Jung-woo breathed, spoke and smelled. And the shoot became much more interesting. The original character that I had in my head was a jester who turned himself into a fool and made other people laugh and thus escaped responsibility from the case alone. But the character Ha Jung-woo acted out was one who was not exempt from blame and who accepted everything with his entire being. In a word, it was much better.
Park Hee Soon as prosecutor Ahn Min Ho. The police and prosecutor had vested interests in finding Chul Min guilty. Prosecutor Ahn knew that Attorney Kang was a worthy advocate. He didn’t have an ounce of hard evidence. His stance was based on abductive reasoning; “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”. If Chul Min’s wife is dead then he is the most likely suspect due to motive and limited alibi.
Jang Hyuk as the client/defendant Han Chul Min. Was Chul Min guilty or innocent? Could justice be served without knowing? As a fan, I looked for moments of magic that Jang Hyuk creates there were several in this film. Jang Hyuk’s performance peak was when Chul Min testified in court. It was a bit jarring…given the hair and camera angle sometimes Ha Jung Woo looked like an older Jang Hyuk.
What I did not like about The Client:
Almost too low key. I’ve seen this story told in more a gripping fashion in books, other films, etc. Don’t get me wrong, while I enjoyed this faceted story I wouldn’t call it riveting…but it definitively had moments.
Final Thoughts: The Client was well acted, constructed, and worth watching. A trio of key characters formed the crux of this film, but the chess game between the prosecutor and defense attorney, in and out of the courtroom, was the driver.