If you’ve seen the severely underrated zombie movie Train to Busan, then you’ll already know that Yeon Sang-ho is a director who lays the cheese on thick. This isn’t a slight -- the best thing about his films is their incontrovertible earnesty. Though Psychokinesis -- the South Korean director's latest movie that was quietly released on Netflix this week -- is a little more refined than previous efforts, its core is crafted from Yeon's familiar sincerity.
Broadly speaking, Psychokinesis is a superhero film. After ingesting a supernatural entity from a medical spring, Shin Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong) discovers that he’s developed -- surprise! -- psychokinetic abilities. But, as in all the best superhero films, his power is a means to an end rather than the main attraction. The meat on this film’s bones is the relationship between Seok-heon and his daughter, Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung, who also starred in Train to Busan). After walking out on the family when Roo-mi was 10, Seok-heon is forced back into her orbit by an accident involving an ongoing real estate war. She’s not particularly happy to have him around, but given that the development company is sending goons to scare the neighborhood folks out of their homes, her father's psychokinesis tends to come in handy.
Psychokinesis is easily one of the best of the superhero movies from the past decade, largely because the world that Yeon has constructed is decidedly not super. The ramifications of Seok-heon’s superheroics are immediate, as is the realization that there’s something inherently silly about them to begin with. When a police officer sees footage of Seok-heon single-handedly taking on a group of men, he dismisses it as a hoax, which is perfectly justified in reality-grounded logic: a video of a man waving his arms and a few other men falling over (i.e., a battle scene stripped of its dramatic score and flashy editing) doesn’t exactly seem supernatural at all.