Director/Screenplay – Yoon Jae-koon, Producers – Jang Won-seok & Lee So-young, Music – Kang Nene. Production Company – Saram Entertainment/B.A. Entertainment.
Yoon Kye-sang (Kang I-an), Lim Ji-yeon (Moon Jin-ah), Park Ji-hwan (Haengryeo), Park Yong-woo (Director Park), Yoo Seung-mok (Chief Lee Shin-woo), Hong Ki-joon (Go Joong-sa), Lee Sung-wook (Yoo Dae-r), Seo Hyun-woo (Baek Sang-sa), Lee Woon-san (Ji Cheol-ho), Joo Jin-mo (Director Hong)
A man wakes up at the scene of a car crash wounded and with no memory of who he is. He goes to the apartment that is listed on the id in his pockets. However, when the clocks switch over to either 12 am or 12 pm, the man finds he is in another body. Through the course of these bodyswaps, he comes to believe that his name is Kang I-an. At the same time, Kang I-an is being sought by both the law enforcement agency he worked for and by criminals. As I-an hops between the bodies of those who were at the centre of the original incident, he seeks to protect his girlfriend Moon Jin-ah from pursuit by the criminals who are seeking key evidence on a memory card.
Spiritwalker was the second directorial outing for South Korean director Yoon Jae-koon who had previously made the organ transplant drama Heartbeat (2011). Outside of that, Yoon has written the scripts for several Korean dramas and romances.
The South Korean gangster film is a genre that has become its own entity since the early 2000s. It was clearly inspired by the Hong Kong gangster film of the 1990s but has gained its own life, producing classic works such as A Bittersweet Life (2005), A Dirty Carnival (2006), The Man from Nowhere (2010), New World (2013), The Outlaws (2017) and Night in Paradise (2021), among a good many others.
The Bodyswap film has been around since the 1940s, usually in terms of light fantasy comedy works – see the likes of Turnabout (1940), Like Father, Like Son (1987) and Vice Versa (1988), among others. A more recent trend has been films about body-hopping – where someone passes through multiple bodies within the course of a story. The classic work among these was The Hidden (1987), while more recently we had the delightful Every Day (2018) and the standout horror film Lifechanger (2018). Not long before this, there was another South Korean gangster film/bodyswap crossover with The Dude in Me (2019) about a tough gang leader and a bullied teenager who swap bodies, while there have been other lighter South Korean treatments of bodyswap themes in recent years with Daddy You, Daughter Me (2017) where a father and his daughter swap bodies Switch (2023) where a pop star and a taxi driver swap places.
Spiritwalker also takes up the body-hopping theme, although it is not quite as adventurous as Every Day or Lifechanger, which had the central character played by a different actor each time they swap. Instead we simply have a la tv’s Quantum Leap (1989-93) the same actor in every incarnation and every so often a shot where he turns to look into a mirror and see the face of the person he has jumped into. Nor is the film adventurous enough to have a man jumping into a woman’s body presumably as a tough guy genre like the Korean gangster film doesn’t wish to deal in any kind of gender bending.
It is still the oddity of the bodyswap film married to the Korean gangster film. Thus the hero moves through bodies every twelve hours while trying to work out what happened. There is quite a complicated plot regarding the crime side of the story. Yoon Jae-koon directs the action scenes and car chases with a certain amount of kinetic oomph. On the other hand, the disappointment of Spiritwalker is that it abandons interest in the fantasy aspect around the halfway point and thereafter allows the gangster plot to take over and run its mundane story to its conclusion.