Organized crime has been around for longer than anyone can probably even guess at. In Asia, at least according to the movies, they’re very organized and profession about it, often treating it like a corporation. Well in this latest film from director Park-hoon Jung, that’s exactly what it is.
New World is a story about an organized crime syndicate called Goldmoon, which had been assembled from a variety of smaller organizations under one corporate style umbrella, with the others acting as subsidiaries to the main organization, which was run by a man named Seok, whom the authorities had been trying to put away for years, but to their disgruntlement, had never managed to.
Within the organization, the police have three moles. The story focuses around one of these moles named Ja-sung (Lee Jeong-jae). He’s been deeply implanted into the organization, and has become almost like family with his boss, Jung Chung (Jeong-min Hwang), who is third in the line of succession. Lee Joong-Gu used to be second in line, but Jung’s closeness with Chairman Seok pushed him down, and as such, the two are in constant conflict and barely tolerate each other. Jang Su-ki technically holds the second spot, but he’s semi-retired and doesn’t do much anymore.
When the cops fail to get a conviction on Seok, shortly thereafter, he ends up dead on the way home from a brothel. They were driving in the rain, and when they went to make a left turn, suddenly a big truck plowed into their car in what seemed like a suspicious accident. Could the police have arranged it, or one of the people wanting to move up in the organization? In any case, Seok’s death starts a war to see who will succed him, and Ja-sung is caught in the middle of it all. He desperately wants to get out. He’s been deep undercover for eight years, and he want to get out and move on with his life. Section Chief Kang (Min Sik-choi) however, has other plans for him. He and one other chief in the department are the only ones who know about Ja-sung’s existance as a plant, other than his female handler within the organization, who is also a plant and makes the reports back to Kang. There’s also one other officer working as a mole, but Ja-sung doesn’t know who it is.
With an empty chairman’s seat waiting to be filled, Jung, Joong-Gu and Jing all have their own plans to fill it, but Kang has a plan of his own called operarion New World, in which he plays the various players against one another, with the ultimate goal of installing Ja-sung as the leader of the organization. Will it work, or will their plans be discovered? Plots, machinations and subterfuge ensue, and only one man will end up on top, but if that man is Ja-sung, will he remain loyal to the police and the reason he’s there, or has he been in so long that he’ll finally turn against them? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
Once again, I’ve been impressed by a film that’s really not a style of film I’d generally watch for my own entertainment, and also yet again, I’m incredibly impressed with the quality of the films that are coming out of South Korea. South Korea really has turned into the Hollywood of Asia by crafting incredible films in a wide variety of genres that particularly excel in the excellence of their stories and the characters they create.
This film presents us with an old story. A cop who’s been placed deep undercover within an organized crime syndicate who has been in so deep and for so long that it’s virtually impossible for him to get out, and even his loyalties begin to waver. Ja-sung is just such a man. He’s been inside for so long, that he’s become like brothers with his boss Jung. With the leader of the syndicate dead, Ja-sung sees a way out, but Kang, knowing that they can never fully take down the syndicate, would like to put their own man at the top of it, and as such, Ja-sung has nowhere to go, and no way out. All he can do is to try to stay alive as Operation New World plays itself out, but in the process, he not only loses the other two undercover officers that were in there with him, but his wife (or girlfriend, it’s never really specified), who was pregnant with his child, loses their baby in a miscarriage caused by the stress of a foiled kidnap attempt in which the cops knew the attempt would be made, and they were there waiting en masse for them to arrive. More than that however, Ja-sung lost himself, as he ended up feeling like nothing more than a pawn in a bigger game where the people he thought he could trust only seemed to be interested in using him, while his boss Jung, who knew he was a cop, but loved him so much like a brother that he kept it to himself and didn’t expose him. Eventually, as the operation is played out and the Jung and Joong-gu are set against each other, and their loyalists clash against one another in a massive brawl, leaving Jung on life support, Ja-sung is left with some decisions to make, not only about where his future lies, but where his loyalties lie as well.
That right there is one of the most spectacular things about this film. Ja-sung feels like someone who’s stuck in a bad situation and you can really feel every aspect of what he’s going through and the decisions he’s trying to make. As for Jung, even though he’s a brutal criminal, there’s something very likeable and fun about him when he’s not in criminal mode, and you can feel the tight relationship the two have together. It really works, not only in the story, but in their on screen chemistry as well. Kang is another great character. A gritty and ruthless, though flawlessly honest cop that really wants to get the best result possible from the situation. While at times he can seem uncaring, I think it’s more that he was just beaten down by spending the better part of his life fighting these criminals and losing a lot of good people. It made him jaded and somewhat cold. The way the character plotted to set the factions within Goldmoon against one another though, what not only brilliantly written, but it was really an amazing thing to watch. It wasn’t just that he pulled off the plan, but the actor, Min-sik Choi, was just perfection in the way he approached his character and what he was doing. It’s this level of acting, bringing such a well written story to life that really made this film the incredible experience that it was.
Visually, it’s about as stunning as I’ve come to expect from these sorts of South Korean films. They have a wonderful nack for nailing color, lighting and flawless cinematography that makes the films not only flow well, but it also makes them just an absolute pleasure to watch. The film is also edited really well and the pacing of it moves along nicely. It is quite long however. The running time is 135 minutes. Since I finished watching the film, I’ve been thinking back through what I saw, and if any of it could have been left out to shorten the running time a bit. Truthfully, even though there were a few bits that were less important than others, I think taking any of it out would have diminished the experience, and when a film is this good, the extra running time isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So how does it end? Probably not as you’d expect, but you’ll have to watch it to find out. The ending, while I can’t say it was entirely shocking, did have some very unexpected twists to it that left me feeling very satisfied and even more impressed with the film as a whole.
This new release from those awesome folks at Well Go USA has a making of documentary, a photo gallery and the film’s trailer included as special features.
For me, someone who isn’t generally overly fond of crime thrillers, to love this one so much, says a lot about it. Make sure you see this one, and or pick up a copy for yourself to add to your collection. You won’t regret it.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.