“Don’t let the devil win.”
That’s the tag line for Korea’s newest action thriller that takes two opposing forces and unites them against a wicked serial killer that lurks about the streets of Seoul.
Set in 2005, a high-strung police officer is on the hunt for a serial killer who stalks his prey randomly before bumping into their cars at night in order to get the to stop. When the drivers get out to discover the damage, the killer— known as “K”— stabs them to death with his prized knife before leaving them in their cars to be discovered at a later time. Detective Jung Tae Seok (Kim Mu Yeol of “Bad Guys 2” and “Illang: The Wolf Brigade”) attempts to get an in-depth investigation started at his department, but his incompetent boss won’t let him investigate as he doesn’t believe it to be the work of a serial killer.
Frustrated and angry, the hot-headed detective takes it out on local mob boss Jang Dong Soo (Ma Dong Seok of “Train to Busan” and “The Outlaws”) as he cracks down on the gangster’s illegal gambling houses and businesses. The two strong characters clash intensely, especially when the detective discovers his boss at the police force is on the gangster’s pay roll and thus protects Jang from being investigated or jailed.
The two enemies will seemingly never see eye to eye until one fateful night when the serial killer attempts to make the gangster one of his murder victims. For the killer, he unfortunately doesn’t realize who he has taken on and a rough fight ensues where Jang is stabbed and left for dead, while K is also injured but manages to escape.
For a mob boss, reputation is everything and soon the competing gangs start circling around Jang like a bunch of hungry sharks. They now see him as weak and wounded, unable to even protect himself from even a simple stabbing. Therefore, they begin their plans to take over the gangster’s business and become the biggest gangsters themselves. As a result, Jang knows he must find the killer and make him pay in order to save face in front of the other gangsters and thus save his own life and business as well.
With hundreds of workers at his disposal, Jang decides to unite with Detective Jung, who has scientific methods and testing available to search for evidence of the killer’s identity. Combining their strengths, the two begin a secret investigation together to track down the murderer. The only twist? If Detective Jung finds him first, he will arrest him and send him to jail, but if Boss Jang finds him first, he will kill him and re-establish his reputation as the toughest mob boss in the city.
What comes about as a result is one intense action scene after another, with spurts of humor to break up the violence, and a brewing bromance that entertains audiences. However, what truly steals the show is Ma Dong Seok’s performance as the swaggering, arrogant mob boss who surprisingly begins to get along with the hot-headed detective who is always willing to use violence to bring in his suspects. Through various fights and by working together, the two soon begin to bond. However, as they draw closer to catching the suspect, the two become more desperate to be the first to find the killer and mete out their own versions of revenge.
Korea has become famous around the globe for its stunning action movies and crime thrillers that get gritty, dark, and beautifully emotional through the stories of power and revenge. As such, “The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil” falls somewhat short of the mark. Although shot well and involving interesting and well thought out fight scenes, there is much that is never explained about the killer’s motives and the story doesn’t go deep enough to be named one of Korea’s new classics.
The film does entertain, however, and was also shown at the Midnight Screenings of the Cannes Films Festival this year. With great performances from the cast, what really makes the movie is Ma Dong Seok himself. Which may explain why Sylvester Stallone has already purchased the film and aims to make an American remake of the film with Ma Dong Seok reprising his role. While most American remakes of Korean films cast Hollywood actors, Ma’s performance was just so impressive that it makes sense to keep the Korean-American actor on board for what will likely become a popular action film in the USA, especially as the intended audiences hasn’t been largely exposed to the plots and twists of Korean crime movies’ scripts and are therefore in for a fun surprise.
Overall, this movie is a fun watch for those who are fans of the genre and of Ma Dong Seok as well. For those who don’t enjoy action and violence, this movie will likely be something they will wish to skip— even though the action is not nearly as bloody or gory as most Korean crime films and relies more on martial arts and fancy, choreographed actions scenes to bring out the excitement.
As I watched the film in the theater, I wondered just how things could be brought to a satisfactory end, but the director did indeed managed to pull things together for a great ending of the film. In fact, I left the venue smiling and satisfied over the entertaining watch. As I also enjoyed seeing the cops and gangsters on the same side for once, I give this movie a solid B+ rating.
Although the plot may focus in part on a gangster’s revenge, the film cannot truly be termed as a revenge film. So, if you go into the theater expecting a dark, serious revenge film such as “The Man From Nowhere” or a gritty crime movie like “The Unjust,” you will be disappointed. However, if you go in expecting a fun action movie with a fast-paced story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’ll leave the theater fully satisfied.
Currently, the movie is playing in 20 different U.S. and Canadian cities such as Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Toronto, and more. You can click here for the film’s current show locations, as well as more information on the movie.
In the meantime, you can watch the trailer for the film below.
Have you seen this film already? What did you think? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @whatthekpop1!
Media: Well Go Entertainment