New World (2013, aka Sinsegye)

Synopsis:

When the head of a powerful crime organization dies in a car accident, cops see a unique opportunity to influence the internal politics of the corrupt conglomerate. Police department officials use an undercover cop to manipulate the selection of the next kingpin, but the elaborate scheme doesn’t go as planned.

Reaction & Thoughts:

This is what I call a gritty gangster thriller.  New World is endowed with gorgeous cinematography, fast editing, unexpected twists and turns, and many moments of unbearable tension. The film also has generous amounts of violence and black humor.

Hoon-jung Park (I Saw the Devil) wrote and directed this crime drama that has more than a few things in common with The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Departed. Of course, it goes without saying that this South Korean import is nowhere as popular as these American movies, but it is a remarkably well-done semi-homage.

New World (aka Sinsegye) deals with the “ins and outs” of the organized crime in the Asian world. I was enthralled by director Park’s handling of a complex universe. The narrative tends to be a bit dense, but it is worth noting that director Park demonstrates a great understanding of the unpredictability and malleability of humans.

All the characters are interesting. Jung-jae Lee (The Housemaid) is a burnt out undercover cop who faces some tough moral choices. The great Min-sik Choi (Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is the cynical Chief Kang. Jung-min Hwang (The Unjust) plays a flamboyant mafioso. “The Yanbian Hobos” (played by Jung-kook Woo, In-soo Park, Young-ki Jung, and Byeong-ok Kim), provide strange comic relief as a group of bumbling hired killers (a nod to the Coen Brothers?).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

New World is a quasi-noir thriller bursting with style, energy and humor. It’s also smarter than your average crime action movie — it’s a thinking man’s thriller. Highly recommended! Color, 134 minutes, Rated R.

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