I, The Executioner Review: A Worthy Sequel That Exceeds All Expectations

When Action Heroes Take On Real Social Issues

The highly anticipated I, The Executioner, arrives as the follow-up to director Ryoo Seung-wan’s breakout 2015 action blockbuster, Veteran. Picking up the story years later, it reunites the pioneering South Korean filmmaker with stars Hwang Jung-min and Jung Hae-in.

Audiences first met Detective Do-cheol in Veteran, watching him take down criminal threats with daring bravado. This time, he’s tasked with unraveling the mystery of a vigilante known only as Haechi. Joined by his ambitious new partner, Sun-woo, Do-cheol must get inside this killer’s head to catch them before copycats emerge.

Debuting at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, I, The Executioner, aims to outdo its predecessor with even grittier action and thoughtful social commentary. We’ll take a look at its pulse-pounding stunt work, explore the complex themes around justice it raises, and see if the leading men take their characters to deeper places. Most importantly, we’ll judge if it succeeds in continuing Ryoo Seung-wan’s franchise in style.

Renegade Retribution

Our story picks up with Detective Do-cheol as he settles into family life with his young son. However, duties call as a mysterious murderer emerges in Seoul. Dubbing themselves “Haechi,”  this killer targets those they feel have escaped true punishment for heinous crimes. As bodies pile up, dealt justice by blade, Do-cheol jumps back into the fray.

Partnering with a new hot-shot cop named Sun-woo, freshly joining the major crimes unit after idolizing Do-cheol for years, the detective works to unravel the identity and motives behind the renegade executioner. Their investigation leads them down numerous twisting paths, with Haechi remaining constantly one step ahead. Making matters more complex, copycats soon crop up, carrying out similarly grisly retribution.

With a public growing increasingly fearful yet divided on support for this rogue justice, Do-cheol and Sun-woo race to get to the bottom of who Haechi really is. Their search spans the dark corners of Seoul and even pulls Do-cheol’s innocent son into the fray in unsettling ways. Just as they close in on their suspects, the film takes surprise turns that keep viewers guessing until the final revealing moments.

Through it all, deeper questions emerge around whether society’s failures in the court of law drove a citizen to take the law into their own hands. How far can one really go in the pursuit of righteousness before crossing into unvirtuous territory? These are the kinds of complex issues Do-cheol must contemplate, even as lives hang in the balance of his high-stakes manhunt for Haechi.

Heart-Pounding Action

Ryoo packs I, The Executioner, with some truly incredible action. From the opening minutes, you can see the increased scale and production values on full display. Bone-crunching fight scenes burst from the screen with choreography that’s both breathlessly fast and intricately composed. Every punch and kick feels impactful.

I, The Executioner Review

One standout sequence takes place down a never-ending stairway, with Sun-woo engaged in an acrobatic battle, spinning and diving off the steep granite steps. The kinetic energy keeps viewers constantly on edge. Throughout the film, tight spaces like underground tunnels heighten the danger any time a skirmish breaks out. It keeps adrenaline flowing.

Shot in a gritty, documentary-like style, you really feel swept up in the fury of the action. The Seoul locations lend an exciting authenticity too, whether it’s rain-slick rooftops or narrow back alleys. And special praise goes to the editing, which ensures the action remains compelling while allowing natural glimpses of the actors’ incredible skills.

It’s clear Ryoo left no stone untuned to outdo even the jaw-dropping feats from Veteran. Do-cheol and Sun-woo showcase their talent for combative tactics to outmaneuver even the craftiest of opponents. The climactic showdowns really take binge-watching to a whole new level of edge-of-your-seat mayhem. Fans of pulse-pounding action won’t want to miss this masterful work.

Weightier Themes, Satisfying Story

I, the Executioner, dive deeper than just non-stop action beats. It explores timely themes that give the story resonance. Where Veterans took a lighter approach, this sequel tackles more serious issues in a meaningful way.

Ryoo doesn’t shy away from touching on hot-button topics in Korea around violence in the media and public reactions online. He even weaves in commentary touching on #MeToo and how society deals with past crimes. However, it’s done smoothly rather than feeling preachy.

These weightier ideas are centered on Do-cheol confronting what motivates vigilantes like Haechi. As he hunts the killer, deeper questions emerge about whether a broken justice system can drive good people to extreme measures. There’s no easy answer, but the film sparks thoughtful debate.

Despite delving into complex themes, I, The Executioner, never loses its entertaining pulse. The characters are compelling, and the twist-filled plot keeps you glued to the edge of your seat. It finds the perfect balance of using action to open discussions, not shutting down your brain.

Under Ryoo’s skilled hand, the film satisfies on multiple levels. Fans who simply love the spectacular fight choreography get their fill, while those seeking substance will find it too. It’s a sequel that takes this beloved franchise significantly deeper while delivering all the excitement fans could want.

Fighting For Justice

At the heart of I, The Executioner are the powerful performances driving the story forward. In the lead role, Hwang Jung-min captivates as the seasoned Detective Do-cheol. Gone is the overly cartoonish depiction from last time. This Do-cheol is all grit and determination as he tracks the killer.

Stepping up beside him is Jung Hae-in as the ambitious new recruit, Sun-woo. He breathes exciting new energy into the partnership. Their back-and-forth plays out aspects of mentor and student, with friendly rivalry teasing out both humor and drama. You become invested in their growing understanding.

The film scores a real emotional punch by pulling Do-cheol’s innocent son into the hunt’s darker reaches. This personal stake ratchets up the pressure on our heroes immensely. And it’s a testament to Hwang’s skills that, even in the midst of pulse-pounding action, he makes you feel Do-cheol’s every anxious paternal instinct.

Together, Hwang and Jung drive the investigation with charismatic strength. They make the dynamic duo very easy to root for until the very end. Through their committed performances, I, The Executioner, truly succeed in pairing enjoyable thrills with a powerfully human story about fighting for justice against long odds.

Deeper and Darker Yet Still Thrilling

I, The Executioner, take the Veteran franchise to a whole new level, delivering a follow-up that outdoes the original in every way. Where the first was more slapstick in tone, focusing on entertaining escapism, this sequel is a far deeper dive.

Trading laughs for thought-provoking commentary, Ryoo Seung-wan has crafted something remarkable—a brainier action blockbuster that doesn’t forget to be an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. It breaks the mold of so many sequels that just rerun the first film’s formula for diminishing returns.

Comparisons really show how I, the Executioner, refuse to rest on past success. The action is gritty, and the plot is more intricately layered with examinations of justice, morality, and societal issues. It finds that sweet spot of complex themes balanced with pure cinematic excitement.

This elevation of the franchise stands apart from similar series that grow stale over time. Jung Hae-in and Hwang Jung-min are even more dynamic leads than before. Their investigation pulls you in with every thrilling twist and turn.

Ryoo Seung-wan has shattered expectations of what an action sequel can deliver. I, The Executioner, am that rare follow-up that truly surpasses the original in dynamism, depth, and daring entertainment.

Momentum and Meaning

The Executioner proves to be one heck of a follow-up film. It takes everything people loved about Veterans and expands it to whole new heights. Ryoo Seung-wan’s direction maintains breakneck momentum through pulse-pounding action. Yet he finds space for thoughtful commentary on issues many will find relevant.

The tight plotting keeps surprises popping around with every twist and turn. Hwang Jung-min and Jung Hae-in are magnetic as the driven detective duo. They anchor the deep exploration of justice, crime, and morality. Layered on top is spectacle in the form of amazingly choreographed fights.

What really packs a punch is how it balances meaningful themes with hugely entertaining escapism. This sequel doesn’t just rethread old ground; it fearlessly challenges its audience while thrilling them to the very end. Ryoo Seung-wan has delivered a continuation that outshines expectations.

Fans will flock to the theaters for the non-stop excitement. But I, The Executioner, have so much more under the surface for those wanting substance with their action movies. There is no doubt this franchise has even brighter momentum going forward. A confident, impactful film that’s not to be missed.

The Review

I, The Executioner

9 Score

Ryoo Seung-wan brings an electrifying culmination to the Veteran franchise with I, The Executioner. Maintaining its breakneck thrills, the film simultaneously outpaces expectations through resonant themes and stellar performances. I, The Executioner, sets a new high water mark for action sequels, delivering an intelligent, thought-provoking ride that truly leaves its mark.


  • Deepens the plot with timely social themes on justice and corruption.
  • Hwang Jung-min and Jung Hae-in give compelling lead performances.
  • Pulse-pounding action sequences are creatively choreographed.
  • Balances meaningful drama with highly entertaining thrills


  • Some supporting characters are underutilized compared to the original
  • The villain lacks the memorability of the veteran's antagonist.
  • Plot complexity may overwhelm less attentive viewers.

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 9
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