The Outlaws

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Outlaws
"This Korean action thriller is cut from the same sort of cloth as that favoured by Johnnie To and, if it's not quite up there with the Hong Kong great's best, it's still got plenty of style."

This Korean action thriller is cut from the same sort of cloth as that favoured by Johnnie To and, if it's not quite up there with the Hong Kong great's best, it's still got plenty of style.

It also has the considerable talents of Ma Dong-seok, aka Don Lee, (best known for his role in Train To Busan) in the lead role. Ma Seok-do (Ma) may look a few pounds heavier than your average Special Squad cop, but he packs a punch, whether its physically swatting bad guys to the ground on his Chinatown beat or slyly getting the better of his boss or the local crime clans so that an easy life is maintained.

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His working methods are threatened by the arrival of merciless gangster Jang Chen (Yoon Kye-sang), who is nifty with a knife and has a side-kick who is equally adept with an axe. As trouble mounts, it's up to Ma to stop the slaughter before he gets taken off the case.

Debut director Kang Yoon-Seong may be treading familiar ground here but he runs lightly and quickly over it, ensuring the pace is maintained and injecting a welcome amount of humour. He has a knack of implying violence - such as an early scene in which a thug attempts to hit a man's hand with a large hammer and keeps missing, the ultimate act kept off screen. He also knows when to use the environment to help his actors keep the fights believable and make what was presumably a limited budget go further, as when a character sprays a fire extinguisher around before a large fight scene in order to keep the chaos to the fore rather than having to focus in on particular punches.

The action is satisfyingly old school and, while there's not much in the way of character development, Ma is allowed to show a sufficient amount of his softer side to make him more than just another smart ass cop. He's also so laid back he's practically horizontal, giving his encounters with the usual assembly of gangland types a sort of world weary energy. Yoon, who was a K-Pop star before turning to acting, is a bit too much of a pretty face by comparison, never quite convincing as a man who has come to be feared by all, especially given the superior threat level generated by his henchmen. This is Ma's film, though, and given that he has spent a large part of his life in the US, it's highly likely that he'll be making his presence - and punches - felt in English language films as well before too long.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2017
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The Outlaws packshot
A hard-boiled cop takes on a gang of violent gangsters.

Director: Kang Yoon-Seong

Writer: Kang Yoon-Seong

Starring: Don Lee, Yoon Kye-sang, Cho Cha-yu

Year: 2017

Runtime: 121 minutes

Country: South Korea

Festivals:

London Korean 2017

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