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May 14, 2014

KIM Hye Soo and KIM Go Eun Team Up for COIN LOCKER GIRL

Female-Driven Thriller from Debut Helmer HAN Jun-hee

by Pierce Conran / KOFIC

Veteran actress KIM Hye-soo has been cast and young starlet KIM Go-eun is almost confirmed for Coin Locker Girl, a new drama-thriller based on a 1980s Japanese novel. A baby is abandoned in a train station coin locker and raised by a loan shark enterprise madam.


KIM Hye-soo, star of such films as Tazza: The High Rollers (2006), The Thieves (2012) and most recently last fall’s The Face Reader, will play the loan boss who raises the young child, eventually grooming her for a position in her organization. Featuring as the child will be KIM Go-eun, in her fourth feature role, following her breakout performance in 2012’s Eungyo, her recent turn in Monster and her upcoming supporting part in period blockbuster Memories of the Sword. The younger KIM has expressed her admiration for and desire to work with glamorous middle-aged actress.


Formerly the assistant director for Ba:Bo (2008) and the screenwriter for last year’s thriller The Gifted Hands, HAN Jung-hee steps up to the megaphone for the first time with Coin Locker Girl. After finalizing casting, the film will go into production this July.


August 5, 2014

Kim Hye Soo and Kim Go Eun in "Coin Locker Girl"

Source: The Fact via Hancinema.net

Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun are coming together.

They are starring in the new movie "Coin Locker Girl". Just after Il-yeong (Kim Go-eun-I) was born, she was abandoned in locker #10 of a subway station, then she was found and raised by mother and boss (Kim Hye-soo) of Chinatown in her gang organization. This is a movie of women in the gang world with atypical men.

Other casts include Park Bo-geom, Ko Kyeong-pyo, Eom Tae-goo and others. Park Bo-geom from "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" takes on the role of Seok-hyeon, the son of a debtor that Il-yeong is after. Ko Kyeong-pyo plays Chi-do, a member of the gang who dreams of overpowering his boss mother. Eom Tae-goo plays Woo-gon who grew up with Il-yeong under mother.

The movie aims to be released next year.


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February 17, 2015

'China Town' Kim Hye Soo and Kim Go Eun show off dramatic transformation in creating unprecedented female characters

Source: TV Daily via Hancinema.net


While movie "China Town" has confirmed its release date as sometime in April, the dramatic transformation of the two actresses, Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun has raised much curiosity about the movie.

"China Town" is a film depicting the survivorship rules by two women, who have been living in their own ways in China Town, where only useful individuals would survive. The movie has been garnering much attention since the two actresses joined in the movie.

Kim Hye-soo took on the role as godmother in China Town, who is also called 'Mom', and Kim Go-eun took on the role, Il-yeong, who was abandoned in the number 10 locker in a subway station.

The focal point of the movie is the dramatic changes of images by Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun. Unlike Kim Hye-soo's usual healthy and sexy image, she put on a peculiar hair style and special makeup. She gave up on her ageless look without hesitation and transformed herself to deliver effective acting performance.

Kim Go-eun, who is one of the sought after actresses on Chungmu-ro and famous for her unique vibe and fresh and mysterious face, now sports short hair showing off her androgynous charm. It is expected she will reveal her own hidden merits as an actress through her swift action acting performance to perfection and the stable energy to carry on the acting performance to match Kim Hye-soo's strong acting ability.

The creation of the unprecedented female characters as well as the dramatic transformation of the two actresses will deliver the unexpected fresh surprise to moviegoers through the movie, "China Town".

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March 8, 2015

Kim Hye Soo's new stills in upcoming movie "China Town"

Source: Nate via Hancinema.net


Stills of Kim Hye-soo starring in the movie "China Town" have been released. She plays the leader "Mother" of cold and cruel China Town, the background of the movie.

Anyone can call her mother but she can't be defied. She is an immigrant whose past and real name is hidden and she created her own gang to survive in the world of violence. She takes care of difficult matters without a flinch and takes care of people who can't pay their debt in her own ways, showing no remorse or feelings.

Kim Hye-soo in the pictures has strands of gray in her hair and freckles all over her face. She is a character like never seen before.


Kim Hye-soo completely flipped her image over for this movie. She underwent the dramatic change that's not easy for an actress like her to do; she roughed up her hair and even added 'fat' to her belly. She participated in the makeover, enjoying it more than anyone else.

Meanwhile, "China Town" is about the survival of two women who made it the cruel world where only the strong survive starring Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun-I. To be released next month.

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March 23, 2015

[starN ZoomIn] Kim Hye Soo & Kim Go Eun attend press conference for movie 'China Town' together

Source: STARN News



Press conference for movie 'China Town' was held at CGV Apgujeong branch in Shinsadong, Seoul.

Actresses Kim Hye Soo and Kim Go Eun attended the conference in black and white dresses, and captured everyone's attention with fabulous looks.

Kim Hye Soo appeared in a black dress, looking chic and sexy as usual, and Kim Go Eun appeared in a white dress, showing sexy and classy look.

Meanwhile, 'China Town' is going to show a story of two women's struggle to survive in China Town, and it will be officially released in April.


/Reporting by Kim Dong-Joo en@starnnews.com

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March 26, 2015

'China Town' Kim Hye Soo and Kim Go Eun what a fatal combination

Source: Newsen via Hancinema.net


"China Town" main preview trailer has been released.

Movie "China Town" has released their first main preview trailer featuring the fatal story of the two women, Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun.

Whilst the film industry has revolved around male characters mainly, the film starring two actresses as the leads is drawing much attention.

The released trailer shows Il-yeong (Kim Go-eun)'s survival story, who was abandoned in the number ten locker in a subway station right after she was born and then finds a new mom, a boss in China Town and sustains her life with her family members, with whom she has not shared a drop of blood. Il-yeong grows up as the most trusted child in the China Town where only those useful ones survive.

However, Il-yeong gets to experience warmhearted kindness when she meets a debtor's son Seok-hyeon (Park Bo-geom) and becomes aware of the world beyond China Town. And she lies to her mother for the first time in her life. Mother has noticed the subtle changes in Il-yeong and gives her an extremely dangerous task. And the fate of the two is forced to charge into the unexpected direction.

As implied in the caption, "I've decided to survive no matter what", it is drawing attention from moviegoers, raising the level of expectation as to whether or not Il-yeong could dream of a different world.

"China Town" depicts the survival rules by the people who have been living in their own ways in China Town where only those useful ones survive. The movie will be released on April 30th.

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April 1, 2015

Kim Hye Soo and Kim Go Eun's battle for sexiness

Source: Newsen via Hancinema.net


The two heroines Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun from the movie "China Town" are out with a different look from the movie.

Kim Hye-soo plays the "Mother" role in "China Town" while Kim Go-eun is Il-yeong, an abandoned child in a world where only the useful stay alive.

The First Look pictorial features the two actresses in manish but sexy looks. They had given up being 'women' in the rough cut movie "China Town" but went through a transformation for this pictorial.


Kim Hye-soo has her eyes closed while she is swept up in a mist of white fog and gives of a strong aura of the leader that she is in the movie. In the cut with Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun together, they are posing seductively with their bodies and eyes. They live up to the names 'actresses of Chungmuro' and bring about the image of a "Mother" and Il-yeong who make choices they can never take back in "China Town".


Kim Hye-soo says, "I have been interested in the actress Kim Go-eun for a long time. I felt she had much more potential than what we can see and I imagine she will stand out amongst those her age. "China Town" will have a huge influence on her'.

Kim Go-eun also said, "I was so happy to hear who I was going to work with. I chose her as the one person that I've always wanted to meet and I knew it was fate. She personally watched me act and even advised me when I needed it".

The two actresses' interview and pictures can be seen in the 87th issue of First Look on April 2nd. Meanwhile, "China Town" is scheduled for release on April 30th.

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April 21, 2015

Critics’ Week Takes COIN LOCKER GIRL

KIM Hye-soo/KIM Go-eun Head to Cannes 

by Pierce Conran / KOFIC


Following last week’s official selection announcement for the Cannes Film Festival, the 54th International Critics’ Week (Semaine de la Critique), an event that runs alongside Cannes, revealed its lineup yesterday, focusing on debut or sophomore films. Among the event’s special screenings will be the Korean female-driven gangster film Coin Locker Girl. In the gritty drama-thriller, Eungyo (2012) starlet KIM Go-eun appears as a young woman who has been raised by a tough loan shark, played by The Thieves’ (2012) KIM Hye-soo, after being left in a subway coin locker as an infant.

The film marks the debut of director HAN Jun-hee, who previously served as an assistant director on the dramedy Ba: Bo (2008), and wrote the psychic investigative thriller The Gifted Hands (2013). Coin Locker Girl comes from CJ Entertainment’s CGV Arthouse label, which is now three for three with Cannes selections, following last year’s Un Certain Regard invitation for July JUNG’s A Girl at My Door, and the previously announced The Shameless, from OH Seung-wook, also in Un Certain Regard this year. 

Though some sections and slots have yet to be filled, four Korean films have already been invited to the Croisette this year, along with SHIN Su-won’s Madonna in Un Certain Regard and HONG Won-chan’s Office in Midnight Screenings. Critics’ Week will run from May 14th to 22nd.

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April 21, 2015

"China Town" and why we are interested in it

Source: Sports Donga via Hancinema.net


Actresses and a female producer got together and did it.

Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun's "China Town" is a rare female noir. It's not common for two actresses to co-star in a drama let alone risk their physical selves in action moves.

The movie is about 'Mom' who lives a cruel life in dark and shady Chinatown and Il-yeong (Kim Go-eun) who is abandoned and has to find her own way of survival. Although they are not directly related, the relation of their surroundings help them survive together. If it weren't for Kim Hye-soo there wouldn't be a "China Town". Once the scenario was complete, the producers thought about her for the role of 'Mom'. She hesitated although she wanted to do it and finally, after 3 months, she decided to go ahead with it. "I doubted I could do it and it was a spectacular experience" she says.

The story of two women started from the head of a female producer. Director Ahn Eun-mi concentrated on Son Ye-jin's "White Night" and Kim Go-eun's "A Muse". She says, "Usually, our lives are expressed by men but I wanted to express it from a woman's point of view".

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April 24, 2015

Noir film ‘Coin Locker Girl’ puts women in leadMovie subverts genre that typically focuses on male characters

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr] INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily


Kim Hye-soo went through a drastic makeover comprising of a fake thick belly and white hair to play a mob boss in China Town. Provided by CGV Arthouse

When it comes to film noir, actresses can take on a limited number of roles, with the femme fatale character usually perceived as the most attractive one.

But in Han Jun-hee’s upcoming debut feature “Coin Locker Girl,” two distinctive actresses play merciless gang members - practically the opposite of the overly feminine noir film stereotype. 

Leading Korean actress Kim Hye-soo is a mob boss based in Incheon’s China Town who goes by the name “Eomma,” meaning “mother” in Korean.

Her monstrous presence in the film is intensified with the drastic makeover she was given. She wears an artificial thick belly and a layer of freckles all over her face for the movie.


Rising actress Kim Go-eun is a tough, merciless gang member in the upcoming “Coin Locker Girl.”

“It was a mentally agonizing time for me when I was deciding if I was going to take part in this movie,” the 44-year-old said during a press conference on Monday at the Wangsimni CGV, eastern Seoul. 

“But after I made up my mind, the rest was rather enjoyable. The film had some dark stories, but I was thrilled to focus solely on the Eomma character without thinking about anything else,” she said. 

“I consider myself lucky that I was given a chance to not think about my appearance as an actress.” 

Kim Go-eun, who became a rising star after playing an innocent Lolita-type character in “Engyo” (2012), let go of the fragile image but took full advantage of her mysterious face to play the cold-blooded killer Il-yeong. 

Il-yeong, was abandoned in a subway station’s coin locker room and left for dead before being picked up by one of Eomma’s gangsters. She was on the verge of being thrown out several times, but, having stood beside Eomma faithfully, she is now one of the mob’s key members.

 However, Il-yeong starts to take interest in the world outside of China Town when she meets Seok-hyun, the happy-go-lucky son of the gang’s debtor, and a destructive relationship ensues. 

“Eomma and Il-yeong’s relationship is very odd,” explained Kim Hye-soo. 

“They are not physically related, but with Il-yeong standing beside Eomma, they come to share the same fate. Maybe Eomma considered her as a successor? It is not a matter of love or hatred that drives Eomma’s behavior. They intertwine in a very odd way,” she added. 

The new director’s unprecedented approach to film noir is also worth taking note of. 

Han calls the unusual choice of using women in the key roles in a genre usually dominated by male characters as “much more powerful and cool when seen on screen.” 

“It may seem abstract, but I wanted to tell a story about survival,” he added.

The China Town setting with its rusty red signboards add to the film’s gloomy ambience.

Actors Go Kyung-pyo and Eom Ta-gu show strong performances as sidekicks.

The film opens nationwide on Wednesday. 

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April 25, 2015

Kim Hye-soo Excited to Take on New Challenge

Source: The Chosun Ilbo


Kim Hye-soo is a brave actress who is not afraid of taking on new challenges. Her filmography reflects her bold character and undying commitment to acting. 

She played unusually charismatic female roles in "The War of Flower" (2006), "The Thieves" (2012) and "The Face Reader" (2013). She is set to come back with a new noir film, "Chinatown," which will be released next week. 

Kim called her latest endeavor "a new challenge that makes my heart race and scares me at the same time."

"It was an unfamiliar experience, but every time I stepped onto the set I could feel a surge of excitement," Kim said. "Even when I had to spend two to three hours to get dressed up for filming, I could feel a strange sense of excitement that I had to suppress when I was acting."

Kim plays an immigrant woman who lives the tough life of a crime boss. She didn't mind looking unattractive for the role with lots of age spots on her face and a funky hairstyle. She also wrapped prostheses around her waist and hips to look plump. 

"It wasn't easy to decide whether to join or not because I wasn't sure if I could do it," Kim said. "But once I made up my mind, I didn't worry about how I would look for a single moment. I think it is a great privilege as an actress to take on a role that makes you dare to do anything." 

"Chinatown" is a full-on noir film that is rare in Korean cinema. Gloomy and bleak images depict the world of underground criminal life, and maintaining heightened tension is a very important aspect in this particular genre of movie. "I was very focused on how to portray the character vividly and realistically," she said. 

Having been in showbiz for almost 30 years, Kim has now become one of the leading actresses in Korean cinema. "There were times when I felt uneasy about being overrated as an actress. I am not as perfect and great as many people may think, but I'm trying to get better every day. This may be why I can still work." 

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April 28, 2015

Life in its harshest form in ‘Coin Locker Girl’


Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun star in “Coin Locker Girl” (CGV Arthouse)

Darkness and isolation are the two constants in “Coin Locker Girl,” the feature-length debut from director Han Jun-hee. It is a crime drama -- violent, unpredictable and thrilling, but even amidst its unexpected twists and turns the film never strays from its central message: life is a hard, solitary endeavor.

That theme is counterintuitive to the fact that the central characters in the film call each other a “family” despite having no biological relation. In fact, it isn’t clear at first what the relationship between these characters is, or what they do together.

“Since this is a noir crime movie, I thought that the audience would develop prejudices about the characters if I showed what they do for a living from the beginning,” said director Han, speaking at a press preview at CGV Wangsimni on April 20. “I wanted the audience to see them first as a family. A strange family.”

Heading the family -- which is later revealed to be a vicious crime ring specializing in loans and organ trafficking -- is Mother (Kim Hye-soo), a cold, calculating woman who rules the dark underworld of Chinatown in Incheon. She has two “sons” and two “daughters,” her henchmen who scatter across the city to collect loan payments and to beat and torture defaulters. 

restmb_jhidxmake.php?idx=5&simg=20150428Kim Hye-soo stars as Mother in “Coin Locker Girl” (CGV Arthouse)

There is no camaraderie in this family, no current of loyalty that underlies the blood-stained transactions. Mother tells her children repeatedly and outright, “When you become useless, I’ll kill you.” 

Of the children, the film focuses on Il-young (Kim Go-eun), a girl whose name means “1-0” -- named for the number of the coin locker she was abandoned in as a baby. After she is sold to Mother as a child, she methodically carries out Mother’s horrific commands to stay alive. She never questions her place -- until she meets Suk-hyun (Park Bo-gum), the son of a debtor who shows her kindness and a life other than the one she’s known. 

However, through a series of events Il-young is taught once again that she can lean on no one, that she can only trust herself in this dog-eat-dog world. In essence, she comes to understand Mother’s state of mind, and the audience realizes that Il-young is becoming the woman she hates so much. 

Throughout the film, the audience is teased with plot developments that never quite pan out the way they’re expected. There is no big moral or turning point, when darkness turns to light, or Mother finds her humanity. Chinatown always remains Chinatown, full of despair. The stark picture of the futility of hope is emotionally tolling, but captivating all the same.

restmb_jhidxmake.php?idx=5&simg=20150428Kim Go-eun stars as Il-young in “Coin Locker Girl” (CGV Arthouse)

“Life is always hard, with just a few good moments to keep us going through the hard times,” said Han. “I chose this particular town, with its unique colors, because I felt it reflected that sentiment best.”

Han’s choice to have the events of the movie unfold in two leading female characters -- an unusual decision for a crime drama -- was also a conscious one, designed to amplify the mercilessness of life. 

“I think that women are stronger than men. They don’t make excuses for themselves, and they don’t have regrets,” he said. This strength, embodied in Mother and Il-young, are a welcome departure from the typical role female characters have played in past crime dramas. They are not dependent on the men around them; in fact, they do not and cannot depend on anyone, and rely solely on themselves for survival.

“Coin Locker Girl” is a fast-paced movie dotted with violence, yet it feels heavy and methodical because the audience realizes intuitively that it will be consistently dark and despairing until the end. This impressive debut from Han Jun-hee -- invited to the Semaine de la Critique at Cannes this year -- opens in local theaters Wednesday.

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)

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May 12, 2015

‘Coin Locker Girl’ draws 1.26 million viewers

The movie “Coin Locker Girl” known as “Chinatown” in Korean, took in nearly 40,000 viewers on Monday to be ranked No. 2 at the Korean box office.

According to industry data, the movie has now been seen by more than 1.26 million people. 


Starring actresses Kim Hye-soo and Kim Go-eun, the movie follows the story of a young girl who was abandoned as a baby. 

The girl, played by Kim Go-eun, is raised by a ruthless loan shark played by Kim Hye-soo.

While the girl is raised by the loan shark and trained to be just as ruthless as her “mother,” she turns against those who raised her when she is ordered to murder a boy whose father defaulted on a loan. 

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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May 12, 2015

'Coin Locker Girl' Achieves Better-Than-Expected Results at Box Office

Source: The Chosun Ilbo


The noir film "Coin Locker Girl" passed the 1 million mark in viewership on Saturday, some 10 days after its release on April 30.

The film's viewership performance came as a surprise because it faces a number of box-office disadvantages. 

It received an R rating, which greatly limits the audience, and had to contend with competition for filmgoers' cash with Hollywood blockbuster "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which has virtually monopolized cinemas across the country. 

Thanks to a positive reception from audiences, however, it has been able to get screened in more cinemas.

"Coin Locker Girl" concerns the relationship between a girl who was abandoned in a coin locker at a subway station at birth and a crime boss who raised her. 

The film will be screened as part of International Critics' Week at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on Wednesday.

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May 20, 2015

Interview Director HAN Jun-hee and Actress KIM Go-eun of COIN LOCKER GIRL

“We’re grateful to be nominated for the Caméra d'or”

by CANNES=NA Won-jung KoBiz


Being invited to Cannes as a new director and actor carry a special meaning. After being invited to the Cannes International Film Festival with his debut film Coin Locker Girl, director HAN Jun-hee had arrived at the festival with his actress KIM Go-eun. As a newcomer, he is nominated for the Caméra d'or. The duo looked excited to be at the festival, and was enjoying every moment while they waited for their first official screening.
What are your thoughts on being invited to Cannes?
Director HAN Jun-hee(HAN) : I think Cannes is a place where after a long period of hard work, good filmmakers gather for their brief moment to shine. What I also want to do most here is to watch as many films as I can. It’s too bad there are a lot of official festival events I have to attend and do not have much time for screenings. I’m honored and happy to be here, but waking up early in the morning to prepare for a shoot is what I think of when talking about films. As a director, it’s important for me to take care of the film’s investors, staffs, and actors.
Actress KIM Go-eun(KIM) : I’m enjoying every day at Cannes. I saw Ewan McGregor at a restaurant yesterday. Also, going to parties in beautiful dresses every night is a lot of fun. Although I want to watch a lot of films as well, what I really want to do is to enjoy the beach with a glass of wine.

What was the best thing about being invited to Cannes?
HAN: As Coin Locker Girl is nominated for the Caméra d'or, the official jury members will be watching the film. I’m honored that the Coen brothers will be watching my film. I have many doubts about myself so I’m not sure what kind of director I will become, but after coming to Cannes, I have a strong desire to make many more films.
KIM: What I was most proud of at Cannes was when JEON Do-yeon, who I respect very much, did her introduction on stage for The Shameless. Watching the audience response was interesting and when I saw that everyone had their eyes and ears on her, it made me proud as a fellow actress.
What did Coin Locker Girl bring to you?
HAN: Not too long ago, the film hit over 1.4 million admissions in Korea and went over the break-even point. I’m thankful that I was able to attend Cannes with this film.

KIM: Even just before the shoot started, I had doubts about how well I could perform in Coin Locker Girl, and had many second thoughts. But solving each of the problems was enjoyable especially through working with the director to make the film. Whenever I have any difficulties in my acting career, I think I’ll be reminded of my experience shooting Coin Locker Girl.
KIM Go-eun, you have another film preparing for release titled Memories of the Sword, which you’ve starred with JEON Do-yeon. It seems like you’ve worked with two of the most respected Korean actresses, KIM Hye-soo and JEON Do-yeon.
KIM: I worked with JEON in Memories of the Sword and KIM in Coin Locker Girl. The two seem very different, but they carry a lot of similar characteristics. What I was most touched about is that they treat all other actors the same, despite my lack of experience. I was proud to be working with them. KIM Hye-soo unfortunately had arrangements for volunteer work and was unable to attend Cannes. But she prepared the outfits for those of us attending Cannes for Coin Locker Girl, including all staff members, from small items like accessory to clothes. She’s someone I respect a lot.

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May 16, 2015

Cannes 2015 Review: COIN LOCKER GIRL Offers New Perspectives On Standard Thrills

Pierce Conran TwitchFilm

Against a parking lot bursting with saturated colors, a person lies on the ground, at the mercy of another standing above them who wields a sashimi knife still dripping red from its last kill.

Dark, bloody and stylish, this could be the beginning of just about any Korean noir. But Coin Locker Girl is trying something new, as these two characters are played by none other than Kim Hye-su, one of Korea's most glamorous leading ladies, and Kim Go-eun, its latest fresh-faced starlet.

Han Jun-hee's debut seeks not to redefine the thriller genre in Korea so much as it tries to update it to reflect a new Korea, one in which people are beginning to resist patriarchal norms, and where immigrants can no longer be brushed aside as an afterthought (it's no accident that the story takes place in Incheon's Chinatown, the Korean title of the film).

Abandoned by god knows who, Il-young's journey in life begins as a wailing infant trapped inside a subway coin locker. Seven years later she's lifted by a shady opportunist who sells her to a seedy loan shark madam in Chinatown. A decade on and she's part of the madam's 'family', and has become rather effective at collecting debts. But the gruff and tomboyish Il-young discovers another side of herself when she meets a young man saddled with his father's debt. Feeling empathy for the first time, she crosses her matriarch, whose reaction is swift and brutal.

The female leads are an undeniably fresh touch, but it must be said that Coin Locker Girl offers nothing new to the gangster/revenge pantheon of Korean cinema. A loyal foot soldier disobeys a boss when romance wafts into the air, is severely punished and then seeks revenge. Sound familiar? Though grittier and more emotional, Han's film bears more than a passing resemblance to Kim Jee-woon's A Bittersweet Life (2005).

What Coin Locker Girl does have, and plenty of it, is style. The production and costume design is earthy, the colors are rich and the cinematography is gorgeous, but above all the whole mise-en-scene adds up to more than the sum of its parts, boasting the keen touch of a director who's willing to see what he can wring out of his talented crew and is not afraid to experiment. A former assistant director on the comic melodrama Ba: Bo (2008) and writer for the psychic thriller The Gifted Hands (2013), Han's resume didn't inspire much confidence. But his debut, as well as its invitation to Cannes' Critics' Week, has announced him as someone to watch.

She may be buried under frumpy clothes, padding, makeup and a frizzy wig, but the smouldering charisma of Kim Hye-su, star of Tazza: The High Rollers (2006) and The Thieves (2012), is still very much present in Coin Locker Girl. Rather than tone down her sex appeal to play the domineering but homely matriarch, she channels it into a threatening performance that hovers over the whole film despite her relatively brief time on screen.

Appearing in most of the film, young star Kim Go-eun, who shot to fame as a precocious high school girl in Eungyo (2012), is the real lead of the film. She holds her own against her veteran co-star (who receives top billing) with a turn that is at first gruff, eventually empathetic and confident throughout. Still it's a big part and Kim, though gutsy, is a little green around the edges, at times trying too hard and not always able to land the film's many emotional beats. Simply put, she's a good lead, but her best work is definitely ahead of her.

Also worthy of mention, though appearing in a much smaller role, is Jo Bok-rae, who plays the man who sells the young Il-young. Jo was the standout in this year's otherwise lacklustre C'est si bon and he once again shows boundless charisma here. He's a talent to watch and with any luck, he'll become a big name before long.

It may not break any new narrative ground, but genre fans should find plenty to like in Coin Locker Girl. With its strong female characters and earthy style, Han's debut is a sharply staged affair that does enough to differentiate itself from the over-saturated Korean noir field.

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