Sorry in advance for the long post!
I loved the movie! So did my friends, both Koreans and non- Koreans. I actually saw it twice already with different friends who wanted to see it. We all didn't think that the plot dragged at all. So I have top disagree with those who say that it dragged in the beginning. The story was very well-developed and the movie felt shorter than the 2+ hours. The character development was great, and so was the story arc. Two of us are writers and Literature/ film professors (I being one of them), and we thought the story was very well done, as it really allowed the audience to understand what motivated each character.
I also discovered more special and interesting elements the second time I saw it, both plot- related and in the symbolism.
There are some fun cameos and inside jokes. There are quite a few funny moments throughout the movie and they are cleverly and organically done, and totally in the right places in the story -- a tribute to the scriptwriter, the director, and especially to the actors, PSJ in particular, since the ad-libs were created or suggested by him, according to what the actors and director said in interviews.
PSJ is EXCELLENT throughout. His facial expressions, as usual, speak volumes even when he says nothing. He's very strong in the serious parts, and his comedic timing in the funny parts is, as always, spot on.
The action scenes were VERY well done. All of us, guys and women, are unanimous on that. We didn't have any problem with the CGI. Even my friend who is a professional CGI guy liked the CGI in the movie.
As for PSJ's abs -- gorgeous as ever, just not enough scenes showing them.
I don't like horror stories or movies, but this movie really isn't a "horror" movie at all. It's more accurately a supernatural action thriller. The demonic or possessed scenes were well- done, but I didn't think the demons/possessed parts were too scary, nor did any of my friends. They were, however, thought-provoking (as to why each individual became possessed), very interesting in execution, makeup, and in how each responded to the exorcisms. They all had different reactions, but I don't want to give away any spoilers. They are dangerous, though, for sure.
PSJ said in an interview that the story "isn't really just a fight between Good versus Evil," and he's 100% right. There's more to the story. Like most Korean movies, it's about choices we make, how much light or darkness we choose to allow into us, or how we respond to difficult times and adversities.
All the actors are very VERY good. Excellent, in fact. An Sung-ki is a veteran character of several decades, and he's sooo good as the exorcist priest, and his fatherly chemistry with PSJ is one of the best parts of the movie. The play off each other brilliantly.
Woo Do-Hwan is also very very. I've always loved his acting and his ability to use his physical beauty to make it appear as either innocent or seductively dangerous, or straight up evil with just how he smiles or in how looks sideways. I would have loved to the movie to have had more scenes with him and PSJ together. If there is a place in the movie I would have liked to change it would be having more scenes of them together. However, within the story, their encounter makes total sense.
Choi Woo-sik is great, and we had fun wondering afterwards how many takes it might have taken PSJ and CWS to shoot their serious scene together without laughing.
PSJ is, of course, strong as always. The man has such great instincts, depth, skills, and talent, not to mention the ability to chose great scripts, that he's riveting to watch. He's SO manly and tough, and totally believable, as a MMA fighter, a man who is good but tough, and then also in his vulnerable scenes. One thing that physically stood out to all of us, apart from his acting and looks, is just how big he is! No one was complaining.... He's seriously HOT in every second of the movie. All black and leather are definitely his look. There was a group of older ajumas seated in front of us, and they actually fanned themselves and commented on how handsome and manly he looks loudly enough for us to hear. It was hilarious, but who can blame them? Lol.
I'll probably end up seeing the movie for the third time because friends from my Korean class also want to go as a group, and I'm totally looking forward to it!!
Btw: There are several cameos by very familiar faces from K-dramas, so it's fun seeing them unexpectedly. One in particular that people will recognize from HPL is brief but hilarious.
ALERT: If you're going to see it, don't leave when the credits start. As is common with Korean movies, there's an important scene right in the middle of the final credits that you don't want to miss!