Posted in Fantasia 2011, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews

Fantasia 2011: Review of The UnJust

The Unjust (2010)
Director: Ryoo Seung-wan, Screenplay: Park Hoon-jung
Cast: Hwang Jeong-min, Ryoo Seung-beom, Yoo Hae-jin, Cheon Ho-jin

I attended the session with director Ryoo Seung-wan presented by Cine Asie before the screening which was interesting and informative even though I’ve only seen one of Ryoo’s previous films (Crying Fist). He talked about how he wasn’t considered a real director at first because he didn’t come from a rich family and didn’t go to film school. He talked about his influences and how he draws inspiration from martial arts movies for his action scenes. Interspersed throughout the talk were clips from his filmography to date.

His movies are known for their violence and The UnJust doesn’t divert from that trend. It’s a crime thriller with ample and brutal beatdowns. The movie wastes no time in showing you the main players, the detective (Choi), the prosecutor (Ju) and the gang boss (Jang) who become entangled when both Choi and Ju are assigned to the case of a serial murderer who has been dismembering little girls. The problem is that the prime suspect has been killed in a questionable shooting and they need somebody/anybody to show to the public who demand justice. Choi enlists the aid of Jang to bribe a criminal to act as the murderer.  It looks like the plan will work until Ju discovers what’s up.  That’s when the real game begins as Ju and Jang take turns digging up each others’ dirty secrets as each man attempts to manipulate the case to benefit his own interests.  Then there’s the wildcard Jang who has his own plans too.

The emotions are pretty over the top as there’s a lot of shouting, face slapping and shin kicking.  I found these actions to be childish and unrealistic.  Then again face slapping and shouting are actually quite common in a lot of Korean movies I’ve seen so my idea of realism may be wrong.  It is still entertaining and the actors are quite convincing.  Sometimes these extreme outbursts are played for laughs which fit quite seamlessly in this otherwise amoral thriller.

The plot runs at a breakneck pace and its setup is initially both overwhelming and confusing. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters and their connections but in the end I understood enough to follow the main plot to its conclusion. There are a few twists, some of which you either accept or not.  Chances are you simply won’t  have time to process it all in a first viewing because it takes much effort just to stay focused on what’s going on. I did have an issue with one twist which I’m not sure was necessary but in the end it was entertaining as long as I didn’t worry too much about what I didn’t understand or perhaps didn’t catch in the early portion of the movie.

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Author:

Longtime fan of East Asian films. Occasional guest "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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