Believer (2018 South Korean film)

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Believer (2018 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Revised RomanizationDokjeon
Directed byLee Hae-young
Produced byJung Hee-soon
Screenplay byChung Seo-kyung
Lee Hae-young
Based onDrug War
StarringCho Jin-woong
Ryu Jun-yeol
Kim Joo-hyuk
Kim Sung-ryung
Park Hae-joon
Music byDalpalan
CinematographyKim Tae-kyung
Edited byYang Jin-mo
Yong Film
Distributed byNext Entertainment World
Release date
  • May 22, 2018 (2018-05-22) (South Korea)[1]
  • July 18, 2018 (2018-07-18) (extended version)
Running time
123 minutes
131 minutes (extended version)
CountrySouth Korea
Box officeUS$39.2 million[2]

Believer[3] (Korean독전; RRDokjeon) is a 2018 South Korean action crime film directed by Lee Hae-young. It is a remake of the 2012 Johnnie To film Drug War. The film features actor Kim Joo-hyuk's final film performance.[4][5][6][7] The film was released in South Korea on May 22, 2018. An extended version was released theatrically on July 18, 2018.[8]


Won-ho is a police detective attempting to bring down Asia's biggest drug cartel run by a man called Mr. Lee. He has been seen by no one, and as a result, a lot of drug dealers have been posing as Mr. Lee to conduct illegal trades. One day, when Won-ho is approached by Oh Yeon-ok, who has recently survived an explosion intended to kill her, Won-ho's team arrives at the site and finds a survivor. When he is admitted to hospital and tries to escape in order to find out about the fate of his mom and pet dog, the police catch him and make him speak the truth. His name is revealed to be Rak, and he had been working in Lee's gang. Won-ho takes him to his dog and reveals his mother to be dead, causing Rak to team up with the police to seek revenge against the boss responsible for his mother's death and dog's poor condition.

Rak and Won-ho arrange a meeting with Ha-rim, who poses to be Mr. Lee. While establishing a fake business with him, Won-ho learns his lines and eventually disguises just like Ha-rim, posing as Mr. Lee as Rak arranges a meeting between him and Park Sun-Chang, a criminal aspiring to work with Mr. Lee. Won-ho imitates Ha-rim and tricks Park Sun-Chang into believing he's Mr. Lee. But the tables turn when Park Sun-Chang offers him his own drug, and unable to refuse, Won-ho has to snort it. The drug shows its side effects but his team saves him.

Won-ho and his team get the drug materials from Ha-rim and Rak takes them to two mute drug makers, Dong-Young and Joo-Young. As they produce drugs, a new criminal named Director Brian comes into play. Won-ho watches him from a distance and now having learnt of Rak's real identity from his own mouth as an adopted child of a family, he prepares to make the next move.

Brian thrashes Sun-chang for meeting him in person, while Ha-rim's girlfriend Bo-Ryung arrives on spot as Won-ho and Rak are taking away the manufactured drugs, kidnapping them both. They are taken to Ha-rim and a prolonged fight ensues, resulting in Won-ho getting injured and Ha-rim getting killed by Rak, while one of the team members from Won-ho's team gets killed in an explosion at the drug manufacturing site. Bo-ryoung dies due to consuming the drug. Despite of being disappointed by their team member's death, Won-ho re-prepares his team to catch Brian, whom he suspects to be Mr. Lee. As they arrive at the site, Sun-chang takes Rak in a room, gagging to kill him. Fully convinced that Brian is not but posing to be Lee, Won-ho and his assistant officer break into a fight with Brian and his henchmen. Won-ho's team arrives to arrest the criminals, but as Rak kidnaps Brian, only to reveal himself to be the real Mr. Lee, he severely wounds him with the help of his mute friends after making his condition similar to his dog. It is also revealed that Brian was the one responsible for the explosion causing the death of Rak's mother.

An injured Won-ho searches for both Rak and Brian, only to find the latter severely wounded. He goes back to find Rak's dog missing. It is then revealed that Won-ho found out the dog's real name was Lieca, while trying to communicate with it. Rak had faked its name to be Jindo but had named their drug after his dog. Eventually, Won-ho tracks Rak down with the help of a GPS device he had planted on Lieca and finds him living with the mute drug makers. As Won-ho is fully aware that Rak is Mr. Lee, who is now officially declared dead, the latter offers him coffee as they both sit down to drink, with their guns on the table.

Looking outside the window at the mountains, an emotional Won-ho asks Rak if he ever had been happy in his life, before the camera moves outside the house and a gunshot is heard.


A detective of the Narcotic Unit
A low level drug dealer and a police informant
A Chinese-Korean drug lord
A henchman of Mr.Lee's Drug cartel and the superior of Rak
A director of an industrial company and secretly operates an illegal drug testing lab
  • Nam Moon-chul as Department Head
  • Jung Jun-won as Deok-cheon
  • Jin Seo-yeon as Bo-ryeong
Ha-rim's eccentric girl friend
A deaf and mute drug cook and the brother of Joo-yeong
A deaf and mute drug cook and the sister of Dong Yeong
A rookie police officer working with Won-ho's Narcotic unit
A troubled teenage informant of Won-ho's
  • Park Sung-yeon as Sign language interpreter


Principal photography began on 1 July and ended on November 16, 2017.[13][14][15]


Believer premiered in South Korean cinemas on May 22, 2018.[16]


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73% based on 11 reviews and an average rating of 5.6/10.[17] Metacritic assigned the film a score of 58 out of 100 based on 5 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18]

Richard Kuipers of Variety gave a positive review and wrote, "Believer may be more impressive around the edges than at its core, but that doesn’t prevent it from delivering a pretty solid two hours of action and suspense that’s muscularly directed by Lee and stylishly shot by Kim Tae-kyung. Punching the narrative along is a terrific, predominantly electronic, score by ace composer Dalpalan. All other technical work is spot on."[19]

Cary Darling of Houston Chronicle rated the film 3.5 out of 5 and said, "Lee Hae-yeong's gripping retelling of Johnnie To's Drug War...stands on its own and is different enough from the original to make it less a clone and more of a genuflection."[20]

Simon Abrams of rated the film 2 out of 4 and said, "Believer doesn't add up to much because Lee and Chung essentially tried to improve something that was already perfectly unsettling."[21]

Box office[edit]

According to the Korean Film Council Believer surpassed one million moviegoers in five days, becoming the fastest Korean movie to accomplish this milestone in 2018. A total of 1,004,563 people had seen the movie as of 26th May.[22]

The film had attracted 3,001,539 moviegoers by June 2, and became the fastest Korean film to surpass three million moviegoers in twelve days this year.[23] During the second weekend at box office the film held 63.4% of the weekend sale by selling 981,000 tickets at 1,531 screens.[24]

Believer became the first Korean film to surpass five million admissions in 2018. The film was seen by a total of 5,063,620 people by September 29, 2018, way exceeding its break-even point of 2.8 million admissions.[25][2]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards Category Recipient Result Ref.
27th Buil Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Kim Joo-hyuk Nominated [26][27]
Park Hae-joon Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Jin Seo-yeon Nominated
Lee Joo-young Nominated
Best Cinematography Kim Tae-kyung Nominated
Best Music Dalpalan Nominated
Best Art Direction Lee Ha-joon Nominated
55th Grand Bell Awards Best Actor Cho Jin-woong Nominated [28][29]
Best Supporting Actor Kim Joo-hyuk Won
Best Supporting Actress Jin Seo-yeon Won
Best Cinematography Kim Tae-kyung Nominated
Best Art Direction Lee Ha-joon Nominated
Best Music Dalpalan Nominated
Technical Award Believer Nominated
2nd The Seoul Awards Best Supporting Actress Jin Seo-yeon Nominated [30]
39th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Kim Joo-hyuk Won [31]
Best Supporting Actress Lee Joo-young Nominated
Jin Seo-yeon Nominated
Best Music Dalpalan Won
5th Korean Film Producers Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Jin Seo-yeon Won [32]
Best Editing Yang Jin-mo Won
Best Soundtrack Dalpalan Won
55th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Director Lee Hae-young Nominated [33]
Best Supporting Actor Kim Joo-hyuk Won
Park Hae-joon Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Jin Seo-yeon Nominated
Best New Actress Lee Joo-young Nominated
Technical Award Yang Jin-mo (editing) Nominated


  1. ^ ""NEW 주가 오를 수 있다", 올해 드라마와 영화사업 성장여력 커". BusinessPost.
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  3. ^ "Believer". Cinando.
  4. ^ "'Drug War' unveils star-studded cast". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Herald, The Korea (29 April 2018). "Remakes of foreign hit series fill up local TV screen".
  7. ^ "Yonhap News Agency".
  8. ^ "Believer" Extended Cut to Be Released on the 19th
  9. ^ "영화 "조진웅·류준열 주연, 아시아 최대 마약조직 소탕작전을 그린 작품" - 한국강사신문". (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-06-23.
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  11. ^ "Kim Joo-hyuk's energetic performance to be a factor in 'Believer'". 20 April 2018.
  12. ^ NEWSIS (2019-05-01). "김주혁, 유작 '독전'으로 조연상···권소현·김병철·이정은도 영예". newsis (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  13. ^ "Director LEE Hae-young Readies for DRUG WAR".
  14. ^ "Jo Jin Woong, Ryu Jun Yeol, Kim Joo Hyuk, And Cha Seung Won To Star In Upcoming Film". Soompi.
  15. ^ "영화 '독전', 7월 1일 크랭크인..조진웅X류준열X차승원 등 "초호화 캐스팅"". The Star. Archived from the original on 2018-05-26. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  16. ^ Yoon Min-sik (June 1, 2018). "[Box Office] Movies in theaters this week". The Korea Herald.
  17. ^ "Believer (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. August 24, 2018.
  18. ^ "Believer (2018)". Metacritic. August 24, 2018.
  19. ^ "Film Review: 'Believer'". Variety. August 24, 2018.
  20. ^ "South Korean crime film 'Believer' hits target". Houston Chronicle. August 24, 2018.
  21. ^ "Believer (2018)". August 24, 2018.
  22. ^ Jang Jin-ri (May 26, 2018). "[공식입장] '독전', 5일 만에 100만 돌파…2018 韓 영화 최단 기록". OSEN (in Korean).
  23. ^ Park Jin-young (June 2, 2018). "[공식입장] '독전', 12일만에 300만 돌파..올해 韓영화 최단 기록" (in Korean).
  24. ^ Jim Min-ji (June 5, 2018). "'Believer' continues its run atop the local box office". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  25. ^ "'Believer' becomes first Korean film to surpass 5 mln admissions this year". Yonhap News Agency. June 26, 2018.
  26. ^ "[23회 부산국제영화제] 부일영화상". Busan Daily (in Korean). 20 September 2018.
  27. ^ "5관왕 '공작', '허스토리'와 함께 부산 품었다(종합) [27회 부일영화상]". MK Sports (in Korean). 5 October 2018.
  28. ^ "제55회 대종상, 각 부문 후보 공개…'공작' 12개 최다부문 노미네이트". Seoul Sports (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  29. ^ "'Burning' wins best picture at Daejong Film Awards". Yonhap News. 22 October 2018.
  30. ^ "'제2회 더 서울어워즈' 10월27일 개최, 드라마-영화 각 부문별 후보공개". iMBC (in Korean). September 28, 2018.
  31. ^ "청룡영화상 후보 발표, '1987' 최다·'공작'도 9개부문 후보". Newsen (in Korean). November 1, 2018.
  32. ^ "주지훈·한지민, 한국영화제작가협회상 남녀주연상 영광". Newsen (in Korean). 11 December 2018.
  33. ^ Cho, Yeon-gyeong (April 5, 2019). "55회 백상예술대상 영화부문 최종 후보 공개". Is Plus (in Korean). Naver. Retrieved April 5, 2019.

External links[edit]