Tag Archives: lee jung-jae

New World – Review

9 Jun

The gangster genre of film is arguably one of the most interesting to choose from when you want to watch a movie. Not only are there always tough decisions and crime on a massive scale, but you can also learn a lot about a culture depending on what you watch. New World is a gangster movie from South Korea that combines the styles of The DepartedThe Godfather, and even some of Oldboy to craft a story that is full of twists, turns, betrayals, and violence. If you can’t already tell, I loved this movie.

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Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) is a top level gangster in South Korea’s largest syndicate, Goldmoon. Ja-sung is also a police officer who has been posing as this gangster for eight years, slowly making his way up the totem pole. After the head of Goldmoon is killed in a car accident, Ja-sung believes that his job is done, but his boss, Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik) goes back on his word and forces him to continue with the syndicate in order to bring it down for good. The mission, titled Operation New World, is to pit Jung Chung (Hwang Jung-min) and Lee Joong-gu (Park Seong-woong) against each other, both of whom are possible candidates to take over as boss. As true motives start to become clearer and clearer, Ja-sung has to decide where his loyalty lies, whether it’s with the corrupt police or the criminalized syndicate.

When it comes to telling a story, conflict is one of the most important ingredients. To me, if there’s no good conflict, there’s no good story. New World, fortunately, has a lot of great conflict. In fact, you sort of get double the conflict. The whole story is told through the eyes of Ja-sung, an undercover cop who has slowly found himself becoming one of the gangsters that he is trying to stop. Right away, the criminals won’t be on his side. The police aren’t on his side either because they just want him to finish the mission no matter what so they can take all of the credit for taking down the syndicate. This clash between two powers makes for some pretty incredible character dynamics.

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Along with the excellent character dynamics between the police and the gangsters, Ja-sung, himself, is a complex and interesting protagonist. I love seeing characters who are normally in control of every situation begin to be pushed way too far to the point where they have to do something drastic. Think Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. His character works very well with the other antagonists, like Chief Kang with the police and Lee Joong-gu in the syndicate. Every scene provided new opportunities for a plot twist or some kind of betrayal, and the tension that builds becomes really intense as Ja-sung’s character gets pushed farther and his identity risks exposure.

I believe that South Korean movies are some of the most beautifully shot films you or I will ever see. New World isn’t exactly anything to lose your mind over, but there were plenty of scenes where the camera work went above and beyond what would normally be asked for in a gangster movie. There’s one scene in particular where a fight is shot from overhead inside an elevator. There’s about 7 people fighting in this one elevator, and the camera seems to move in the same way that they do shooting down on them. It made the scene so much more effective, and did so throughout the entire movie.

New World is a very well crafted gangster thriller that is superior to many others that are put out. It’s character dynamics and strong sense of conflict keep the movie moving, but also the sense that anything can happen, including the breakdown of the protagonist makes it that much more interesting and watchable. Anyone who is a fan of The Godfather or The Departed will find a lot to love in New World.

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The Thieves – Review

26 Oct

One of the best feelings ever is going into a movie and expecting it to be garbage, and then ending up having some of the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a long time. Before watching The Thieves, I didn’t know anything about it and I wasn’t even sure that it’s production values were any good, but after some research I found that, for awhile, it was the highest grossing South Korean film of all time. So, I soon became interested, and after watching the movie and thinking back on it, I like it more and more.

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As leader of a group of thieves, Popie (Lee Jung-jae) has assembled only the best in the business. These include the aged Chewing Gum (Kim Hae-sook), the young burglar Yenicall (Jeon Ji-hyun), and expert technician Zampano (Kim Soo-hyun). While this team works great together, a monkey wrench is thrown in the mix when two of Popie’s old associates show up once again. The first is his love interest and associate Pepsee (Kim Hye-soo) and the other is Macao Park (Kim Yun-seok), who has a new job for them: stealing the Tear of the Sun diamond from vicious gangster Wei Hong (Ki Gook-seo). Enlisting the help of another team from China led by Chen (Simon Yam), the thieves make a plan and eventually get their hands on the diamond and the money, but it seems that everyone wants it all for themselves and proves that there is no loyalty among thieves.

As I was saying before, I really had pretty low expectations for this movie. I was worried it was just going to be a rip off of Ocean’s Eleven, but I was wonderfully surprised to see that The Thieves most certainly is not a rip off, but it is the best heist film since Ocean’s Eleven. This movie is a great blend of action, comedy, and betrayal. This is a pretty long movie, and I’m not saying that it couldn’t have been edited down, but there is so much happening in this movie that the long run time is justified. Another concern of mine was, since I knew that there was going to be a lot of double crossing from a lot of different characters, I thought I was going to be mad confused. Again, this just wasn’t the case.

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Maybe I’m just a moron, but when there’s a lot of things going on in a movie where a lot of different people have ulterior motives, I sometimes just get lost in a all of the commotion. Let’s just say movies like Spy Game and the third Pirates of the Caribbean movies left me baffled for a while. This one didn’t leave me confused at all, and I think that’s because the characters are so fleshed out and written so well that none of them blended together. They all had very different personalities and clear motivations that were explained very well, so when the double crossing did begin, I was able to keep up with it and just enjoy seeing everything fall apart in that comedic way that only heist films can deliver on.

That being said, The Thieves definitely has style, but it is in no way style over substance. I actually connected with some of the characters and understood their reasonings, and then there were some that I enjoyed hating. It’s a very twisty king of movie, so you may think you know what’s going on, but then it turns out that you couldn’t have been more wrong. The only real flaw that is to be found in this movie is that a very big conflict, which can be argued is the main conflict of the entire movie, doesn’t show up until the last half hour or forty five minutes of the movie. They pack so much action into this part that it’s easy to forget that this should’ve been part of the movie from the get go.

As it stands, The Thieves is still the third highest grossing movie in South Korea, and it really does deserve that honor. I saw a lot of other critics saying that they wished Hollywood was still able to make movies like this, and I have to agree. Sure, Hollywood makes some really great movies from time to time, but it’s also lacking a lot of what The Thieves has, and that’s both style and substance. This is a movie that is sure to please anybody who watches it. I absolutely loved The Thieves.