In this Korean-laden foreign film, people are introduced to a Korean gangster (Hyun Bong-sik) trying to escape the gangster lifestyle by running a casino. However, the old ways come back to haunt him, and he is reintroduced to his past and gets caught in the crosshairs of a full-fledged war. Let’s just get this out of the way, so I won’t repeat myself. This movie is not great or original in any way. I was fifteen minutes into the film and was already getting Carlito’s Way vibes, but they just changed the country to Korea, and it certainly lacks the energy and presence that Al Pacino gave in that movie. Mostly, it’s just gangsters shooting and yelling at each other without any type of civil resolution. The characters are incredibly one-dimensional and don’t seem to resonate with any type of “feeling” within audiences.
When he isn’t shooting or torturing people, our protagonist gangster is involved with a lover with whom he never seems to see eye-to-eye. On top of that, he is also “fathering” a grown man-child who looks up to him like a father. The young man even asks our reluctant gangster if he may call him father, and he ends up acquiescing. The gangster is, then, faced with the challenge of whether to continue to work in the salacious activity that he is in and be guilt-stricken with the number of people murdered or walk away with a target on his back.
As I looked at the time remaining in the movie, I saw that I was only thirty minutes in and still had another hour and a half to go. I, actually, had to watch the film in sections and take breaks in between because of how much of an ordeal it was even to care whenever I was convinced that a scene was over and the credits would roll. It just kept going and going for eons. This was probably just as boring as the second John Wick movie, and I fell asleep on that movie halfway into it. I was dozing off and on with this Korean film, but I was really struggling through it.
“…a Korean gangster, who tries to escape the gangster lifestyle by running a casino.”
Scenes go from either shooting to drug deals or to a dull romantic subplot that never captures any hearts or minds. I certainly didn’t feel anything when anyone got shot or stabbed because I didn’t get enough out of the characters to even care.
That’s another thing about this movie that annoys me. It focuses more on gun fights and violence than actual people. Having a shootout or a chase sequence isn’t bad, but when that’s what carries your film, it seems only fair to think about the human aspect and not put that part of the film in the backseat to be overlooked.
On the positive side, the film is shot with the subtlest of ease and is worthy of my praise. Each frame alternates from either a long shot of fishing boats or a neo-realistic, vibrant K-pop scenery. To its credit, the film does compose a symphony of the Korean landscape, whether beautiful or seedy.
Overall, this film needed to do a lot to win me over, and it mostly failed in doing so. While the cinematography is something to marvel at, it doesn’t do anything in the genre that it stands for and often becomes something of a parody of its own genre. It does too much talking and shooting and not enough emoting to make its characters seem….well, human. Years down the line, it will probably be something of a cult classic, but for now, it is something that you would be falling asleep to on VOD.