This was a film I was looking forward to watching as it starred two of the best Korean actors around, both whom I had seen in previous movies (where their roles were quite different). As the title suggests, it’s a gangster movie and while there are ample scenes of men getting beaten by pipes and stabbed or what not, the movie is more focused on the business and gradually escalating gang war in the 1980s and 90s.
Choi Min-sik plays a customs officer, Choi Ik-hyun whom after a drug discovery eventually teams up with a gang boss, Choi Hyung-bae, played by Ha Jung-Woo. Ik-hyun uses his government connections to get approval for hotel and casino construction. A gang war escalates when they forcibly take over a club run by rival gang leader, Pang-ho. That combined with the government’s initiative to crack down on gang crime puts pressure on all involved.
The acting performances were excellent although I didn’t necessarily find Ik-hyun’s rise to businessman with gang ties that convincing, it seemed to happen rather quick to me. The story emphasizes the hierarchy of authority both perceived and real. The changing dynamics and power struggles yield both brutal beatings and brief moments of comedy in this otherwise serious tale.
The film is a bit long but very entertaining. It may not necessarily be a repeat watch but fans of gangster films should enjoy this one very much.