Ever since Shiri became a huge box office success in 1999, the Korean film industry has undergone a huge boom period. Whilst the North/South spy thriller may have kicked things off, it fuelled a trend for imaginative and impressive crime thrillers. These include Oldboy, Memories of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Man from Nowhere and The Wailing. However, I Saw the Devil is arguably the best. It was written by Park Hoon-jung, who has gone on to make four films himself, including the classy crime drama New World.
When Seok, the head of South Korea’s largest crime syndicate, is murdered, there are three candidates to take his place. Jung Chung (Jung-min Hwang), Lee Joong-gu (Sung-woong Park), and Jang Su-ki (Choi Il-hwa). Their organisation, Goldmoon, is an amalgamation of several different groups and a power struggle soon ensues. Chief Kang (Min-sik Choi) is in charge of stopping this chaos, with the aid of Lee Ja-sung (Jung-jae Lee); an undercover cop and Jung Chung’s right-hand man.
New World is a stylish, clever and bloody crime drama which pits several characters head to head. Loyalties are sternly tested, with Park Hoon-jung throwing in all manner of twists and red herrings. As tends to be the case in Korean cinema, the action and violence is over the top, but a smart script keeps things in check. New World starts of quickly and just keeps picking up pace until a frantic finale. Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted, it contains all the elements to keep you on the edge of your seats and leaves you wanting more.
New World is released on Dual Format (Blu-ray and DVD) by Montage Pictures on 15 January.