Old School Crime Bosses Spar in New World
Cops and criminals—they're all the same! So says South Korean writer-turned-director Park Hoon-jung, again, with New World, which like his last screenplay, I Saw the Devil, embraces a rather tired two-sides-of-the-same-coin moral equation. When a corporate crime boss is killed, ambitious would-be successors Jung (Hwang Jung-min) and Lee (Park Sung-woong) square off for the boardroom throne, all without knowing that thorn-in-their side chief inspector Kang (Oldboy's Choi Min-sik) plans to manipulate this power transition via his longtime undercover mole, Jung's right-hand man Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae). Nonstop chatter in which Jung, Lee, and Kang threaten each other is weighed down by the bluntness of Park's dialogue, and his intrigue-laden narrative's efforts to prop up crooks and drag down cops to the same level—culminating with a twist that finally compels Ja-sung to "choose a side"—feels strained and didactic. An excessively bloody sequence that finds Jung battling five knife-wielding assassins in a cramped elevator is the only moment of intensity. The rest of Park's direction is sleek and assured, but lacking the dynamism that might help energize a film that—its title notwithstanding—comes off as dully old-school.
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