Gaming is massive in South Korea. There are boot camps to wean people off gaming as some are spending an unhealthy amount of time sat in front of a computer screen, blasting enemies. There’s a whole culture around it, some gamers earn a lot of money and are huge stars, it’s a strange world, and it was only a matter of time before they looked inward and made a film about it. Is Fabricated City what we’ve been waiting for?
Fabricated City follows Kwon Yoo, Chang-wook Ji (Healer (TV), Five Fingers (TV)), an unemployed gamer who is ‘throwing his life away’, according to his mother, but in the gaming world he’s practically a god, known as a leader. His life takes a sudden and dramatic turn when he is framed for raping and murdering an underage girl and is sentenced to life in prison.
Whilst in prison he is targeted by a drug lord who dishes out ritual beatings on Yoo until a quiet, unassuming serial killer befriends him and helps him with life inside as well as plotting an escape. Once on the outside his gaming buddies, who he’s never actually met face-to-face, help him get to the truth behind the murder he’s accused of which is much bigger than they ever thought.
Fabricated City is a fast-paced, frantic almost, hyperactive movie. It speeds through the story, in particular the early parts, at such a pace that, at times, it can lose you if you can’t keep up and keeping up can be a struggle. This is a shame as the premise, the action, the acting and the production values are all very good.
Where Fabricated City begins to fall apart is with its introduction of characters seemingly out of nowhere, skills people seem to suddenly gain, and occasionally it falls foul of silly Korean car chases.
Despite these flaws though, it is still a good film. There’s an element of mystery as to who is behind the framing of people for murder, though the reveal is early on and isn’t as dramatic as it should be because we’re moving at such a speed. The characters are good, we see the avatars of these people, probably as they see themselves, and when we meet them in real life they’re of course, very different.
However, we don’t get to learn much about them, they’re kept shallow with fleeting conversations about their past which include one of the gang saying his father used to beat him. It’s left there and we, swiftly, move on. Yet you can imagine all these people as gamers, the one they call Sister, Eun-kyung Shum (Miss Granny, Masquerade), initially won’t talk to anyone unless it’s via a mobile phone, even if she’s sitting directly opposite you. These are characters we should have learnt more about, they appear interesting.
The ending sees our bunch of rag-tag gamers put their gaming skills to work in the real world, obviously, to defeat the person behind the framing as well as the drug lord who is now out of prison and working for him, although it’s never really explained how or why that happens. They expose the man behind it in a shower of TV coverage and his little game is left shattered around him.
Fabricated City is a watchable, fast-paced, movie that leaves you with more questions than answers. However, it’s the solid premise and interesting, if shallow, characters that make you want more and leaves you thinking it’s a missed opportunity.
I wouldn’t ever normally say or advocate this but, for once, I really think Fabricated City would benefit from being remade, to flesh out the characters, hold off on the bad-guy reveal, keep the suspense a bit longer and remove some of the silliness that crops up. If someone like Luc Besson and Europa picked it up, I think this could be one hell-of-a-movie.