Published Mar 21, 2013What is stronger: loyalty built upon trust and respect or loyalty born of professional obligation? That is the question pulsing at the heart of Park Hoon-jung's answer to Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs and the celebrated American remake by Martin Scorsese, The Departed.
For his second turn in the director's seat (after The Showdown), the writer of jet-black revenge piece I Saw The Devil manages to out-twist the already complexly knotted plots of his cinematic forbearers while delivering a more subtle character study about the emotional and physical toll deep-cover espionage takes on everyone involved.
Working from his clever script, Park expertly manages an excellent ensemble cast in this compelling story of duplicitous corruption and manipulation. When the sudden death of the chairman of the Goldmoon crime syndicate creates a power struggle between his two potential successors, jaded and razor-tongued police chief Kang (Choi Mink-sik, Oldboy) seizes the opportunity to gain vital ground in a case he's been building for close to a decade.
Playing a deadly game of puppet master, Kang uses his most deeply imbedded mole, Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae, The Thieves), who's been serving as the right hand of vicious and charismatic heir apparent Jung (Hwang Jun-min), to influence the succession of leadership.
As the story progresses, the web of deceit and strategic manoeuvring grows increasingly tangled — who knows what and who is working for who are played out like a shell game performed by a master grifter. What Park lacks in visual acumen he makes up for in the clear, concise handling of a narrative that could easily have slipped into convolution. As well, he extracts performances from his actors that only nibble on the scenery when such cocky strutting is actually part of the show the characters specifically put on to smokescreen their true intentions.
New World is a masterfully staged and suitably epic crime saga peppered with moments of gut-wrenching brutality that only occasionally sags under its considerable weight. (Well Go USA)