Director: Park Hoon-jung
Starring: Choi Min-sik, Lee Jung-jae, Hwang Jung-min, Park Sung-woong, Song Ji-hyo
When the chairman of the Goldmoon syndicate is suspiciously killed in a violent auto accident, the criminal organization is thrown into conflict as the scramble for a successor begins. Meanwhile, the police, headed by Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik), see this power struggle as an opportunity to take down key members and perhaps cripple the Goldmoon permanently. Enter Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae); right hand man to Goldmoon bigwig and succession candidate, Jung Chung (Hwang Jeong-min). Cool and collected, Ja-sung is implicitly trusted; but is also Kang’s undercover mole from within for over 10 years. As Goldmoon’s Lee Jeong-gu (Park Seong-woong) makes a drastic power play for the leadership position; Ja-sung finds himself pulled between two worlds, where a single mistake could cost him his life.
Director Park Hoon-jeong directs, as well as writes, this masterfully spellbinding crime thriller. Well aware of the talent at his disposal, his script offers incredibly pensive but nonetheless, engaging material for some of Korea’s best actors today. Beautifully shot as well, there is a romantic side to the world of crime and the ‘classiness’ of that world is a big part of the conflict set up in Lee Jung-jae’s character. Crisp suits and pristine cars populate the film, and the world of the jopok gangster has never be so cool, despite the brutality that comes with obtaining such power.
Starting off with a bang, Lee Jung-jae grabs you by the throat with his portrayal of an undercover cop, in too deep by most standards, in conflict with his desire to leave this most dangerous assignment and torn between his very real loyalty to Hwang’s Jung Chung. Offering probably his best work to date, you really fear for him; that his cover gets blown, that he is able to make his way back to normalcy, and that he and his pregnant wife will be able to have their child in peace. It’s a low key performance at time, but I was absolutely riveted by it. Choi Min-sik shows why he is one of the world’s best thespians with his gruff and obsessive performance as Kang. I don’t know if cool is the right word to describe Choi’s Kang, but his sheer presence is undeniable. Highly reminiscent of some Clint Eastwood performances, Kang is meticulous, astute, and an amazingly capable investigator.
Hwang Jeong-min himself turns in a powerhouse performance as the seemingly ignorant gangster who trusts Ja-sung absolutely, but he offers an intensity to his role that when it bubbles to the surface, makes him one of the scariest characters in the film. That last statement may seem odd considering how likable he is in other parts of the film, but it a very intelligent choice considering the fact that the film is dealing with a two sided coin as well, in Ja-sung. Park Seong-woong’s Lee Jeong-gu is the perfect opposing candidate for Jung Chung and he plays his cards very close to his heart. Cold, calculating, and extremely vicious, he is certainly the clear intimidator in the Goldmoon succession. Song Ji-hyo and Park Seo-yeon turn up briefly as Ja-sung’s undercover liaison and wife, respectively, and their turns are good, but the real meat of the film is this titanic battle between men.
Despite the running time of 135 minutes, the film never feels rushed and nearly every scene feels important. Beautiful camera pans and wide shots ensure pleasing visuals, and a tentative but very appropriate score set the stage for the terrific drama. New World is an exquisitely shot and engaging thriller that is one of my favorite films of the year. Beautiful in its brutality and depiction of life between two violent worlds, New World very well be one of the best crime thrillers of all time. Definitely see it, unless you hate good cinema.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Infernal Affairs, Election, Friend
Special Thanks to Well Go for providing a viewing copy!