Smugglers (2023) is a poignant tale of female divers called haenyeo who are exploited in the perilous underbelly of smuggling. Set in a sleepy South Korean fishing village in the 1970s, the film captures the breathtaking beauty of the underwater ocean world and the harsh realities of life for these women. Despite its predictable plot, the film is elevated by its strong performances and brisk screenplay. It is a refreshing take on the genre, devoid of any heroes as the saviour. Mangoidiots reward with a Ripe for that reason.
The haenyeo, female divers of Korea, were renowned for their endurance and ability to stay underwater for long periods. The film follows a group of them working from a fishing boat in the village of Guncheon. When a chemical plant near the coast destroys their livelihood, they are forced to turn to smuggling. This was a time when Korea was still developing, and imports such as cigarettes, household goods, and especially TVs from Japan were popular. Along with these, the greedy began smuggling gold and diamonds from Hong Kong and nearby areas. All of this brought risk, which the women too were engulfed in. The film thrillingly narrates how and why this affected them. It is a story of treachery, bribery, bravery, sacrifice, loss, and shrewdness.