An undercover cop (Lee Jeong-jae) has infiltrated one of South Korea’s most powerful mob, tired by his never-ending mission, he’s slowly losing his way. Everything accelerates when the boss suddenly dies…
Park Hoon-jung. Park Hoon-jung. Here’s a name from the South Korean film industry to keep in mind. He’s written several screenplays such as Kim Jee-woon’s I saw the Devil or Ryu Seung-wan’s The Unjust, and he finally directed his first movie called The Showdown in 2011, it’s a period drama.
This first film was not entirely convincing–the tiresome editing effects, the dark cinematography…–and seemed to be more of a test project to reassure producers & backers that the man can indeed direct films.
Because when it comes to his second film, New World, we are on a complete different level!
#WELCOME TO SOUTH KOREA
Thematically speaking, Park Hoon-jung has explored similar ideas on each of his projects. There’s always the idea of a man stuck in moral & psychological dilemma, while the world & rules around him are completely changing. There’s just to see how the character will rebuild himself, which way he’s going to chose. Does it feel like a nice yet efficient dramatic structure?
Back in the thriller genre, the director is focusing his attention on the psychological suffocation of this undercover cop, lost between his friendship towards another gangster & his loyalty to his police boss. Adding to that, the story is set when this criminal organization is trying to figure out who will be the new boss, with the police trying to control the outcome of that election.. So many dramatic elements which will be carefully used by the director during the film!
↑ (left) The introduction points out the intention of the story: translating the whole complexity (with a bit of irony or darkness) of the situation; whose side are you on? (right) The difference between the two gangsters running for power: where you eat defines who you are?
Among the great things about New World is the clear characterization, amplified by some nice directing ideas. For example, there’s this well-mannered gangster who’s acting like an upper class member, while his enemy is a vulgar, common & bold man who buys fake products of renowned brands & eat in simple restaurants. Two differents way to describe two different personalities that are easily recognizable!
The directors has also a nice way to visually translate, with subtlety, the wandering mind of the main character; he can often been seen alone in the middle of a large shot; a fast-paced editing with close-ups can be used to reinforce his wavering confidence; or, using details from the environment, simple moves or a single glance between characters to amplify fear or paranoia! It’s like the character played by Choi Min-sik, inadvertently cutting a leaf from a plant in his chief’s office, the leaf as a symbol-an undercover officer, maybe?–only implies he may not have the best intentions after all?
In his effort to play with emotions, to create tensions–the warehouse scene, the parking scene!–while delivering visually stunning frames, Park Hoon-jung proves to be an efficient & remarkable storyteller, despite some minor pace issues. The story is beautifully shot & told!