The golden age of bad guys. Kwak Dowon’s filmography can be defined in this way. Let’s give an example to make it easier to understand. Several male top stars had to experience physical violence against Kwak Dowon in films in the past decade. With his heavy presence, gruesome gaze, and sharp tone, Kwak overpowered Choi Minsik, Song Kangho, Ha Jungwoo, Jung Woosung, So Jiseop, and Im Siwan in films, establishing villain characters as his signature.
The interesting point is that most of the villains Kwak played are symbolic of public power. From the violent prosecutor in <Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time> (2012), who says the famous line, “You’re a gangster if I say so” to an NIS investigator in <The Berlin File> (2013) and the election campaign chief in <The Mayor> (2017), the actor revealed the dirty side of an elite and typical opportunist on the screen although their images were slightly different.
Among them, Cha Dongyoung, the superintendent in the 10 million-viewer movie <The Attorney> (2013), is the top villain in Kwak Dowon’s filmography. The torture and assault perpetrated by the police officer, who has a perverse belief that his ideas are law and patriotism, reminded the audience of the nation of violence during the military regime, driving them into anger and fear. Actor Kwak Dowon’s share in and out of the movie increased when his character intimidated a college student (Im Siwan), who was falsely accused of violating the National Security Law, and when the character was arguing with the attorney (Song Kangho) while being treated as a servant of power on the witness stand. This work won him the Best Supporting Actor at the Buil Film Award and the Korean Film Critics Association Award, and Kwak quickly emerged as a leading actor from a scene-stealer.
Kwak Dowon’s representative work is <THE WAILING> (2016), which was invited to the Cannes Film Festival. It is surprising that his first main character became his representative work at once, but what’s more valuable is that he challenged a complex character, not a villain’s role that had been his signature. After swallowing the bait of being the main character in 20 years, like a volcano, Kwak explodes the acting skills he has honed from a theater actor and minor roles in numerous short and commercial films. In the tragedy where an ordinary police officer in a rural area is gripped by fears of losing his daughter and suspicions about the immediate existence in front of him, Kwak Dowon’s character is constantly transformed into a guide to the story, a leader of the incident, and the person in charge of the outcome, coordinating the madness he breathes throughout the movie. When he determines to do away with the outsider, and when he stumbles on a cliff in search of the outsider, the expression of emotions from the whole body and the facial muscles was a frighteningly instinctive performance of the actor who knew ‘what’s the name of the game.’
Since then, Kwak has been playing the roles of public officials consistently and is gaining favor in real life. His filmography has become solid through various films: in <Asura: The City of Madness> (2016), he played the malicious prosecutor caught up in the plot to capture the corrupted mayor: in <Steel Rain> series, Kwak played the senior presidential secretary for foreign and security affairs in the 1st series and the North Korean Supreme Guard Command Chief in the 2nd series, crossing good and evil characters successfully: in <The Man Standing Next> (2020), Kwak played the director of KCIA, the second-in-command of power. The actor played a firefighter in his next film <Firefighters>, which is about to be released. Expectations are high on what synergy director Kwak Kyungtaek and actor Kwak Dowon will create in the story of firefighters based on the true fire incident. Be prepared to be misled by his pulsating performance, which makes the audience nervous and disarmed in any movie. Jung Yumi