Special Delivery: superior car-chase thriller

For all its high-octane hijinks, Park Dae-min’s sleek new film has a touching character relationship at its core.

23 August 2022

By Josh Slater-Williams

Park So-dam in Special Delivery (2022)
Sight and Sound

Glancing at its cast list, one might assume that Park Dae-min’s Special Delivery was cannily intended to capitalise on the success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019): it reteams Parasite star Park So-dam with that film’s youngest ensemble player, Jung Hyeon-jun, for a smart thriller. But Special Delivery reportedly began principal photography the same week that Bong’s film was released in Korea, and beyond the gory climax, Park Dae-min’s film is rather a different beast, taking its cues from high-octane car-chase movies à la the Transporter trilogy (2002-2008) while drawing on the character dynamics of John Cassavetes’s Gloria (1980).

Eun-ha (Park So-dam) works by day as a junkyard employee in Busan, also taking on well-paid night-time assignments across South Korea for her boss and father figure (Kim Eui-sung), who runs a special delivery side business. They transport “anything that regular carriers can’t”, including robbers headed for port getaways. It’s in Seoul that one such port drive goes wrong, as a corrupt cop (Song Sae-byeok) and his goons catch up with an underworld whistleblower (Yeon Woo-jin), who sends on his scared child, Seo-won (Jung), to Eun-ha’s designated collection point with a bag of cash and a security key for an account holding $30 million. After deciding not to dump her new ward, Eun-ha eventually looks to ensure his escape overseas.

As in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (2017), a chase sequence prologue sees a group hurriedly pile into a getaway car, immediately wary of the young driver who’s come to ferry them. In Special Delivery, the scepticism is deepened by the driver being a “chick” with hardly inconspicuous turquoise hair, but Eun-ha’s success at evading pursuers soon placates the passengers, besides the occasional squeal at her speed and narrow misses (including one with a passing train). This thrilling, impressively convincing set-piece is also the film’s most comedic stretch: one shot that sees Eun-ha’s car slowly, quietly move downhill behind a pursuer in the frame’s foreground plays like Scooby-Doo tip-toeing away from a masked fiend. It isn’t long before the film drifts into more dramatic, bloodier territory.

That Special Delivery is a superior chase thriller depends less on narrative surprises than on Park So-dam’s magnetism and the sheer variety of the action sequences, most of which are visceral and adeptly blocked. That said, Eun-ha’s backstory, when it is eventually revealed, offers distinctive intrigue; and while protector and child form a rapport, clichéd maternal instincts are never the driving force – Eun-ha’s got enough to worry about with her cat back home in Busan. Unlike the cat, whose name is Chubby, Special Delivery keeps the fat to a minimum.

► Special Delivery is available to stream and download on digital platforms now.