The next time you complain about violent American cop movies, rest assured that the Korean equivalent makes Dark Blue look shocking pink, if Public Enemy is anything to go by.

The protagonist is as batty as a fruitcake. Kang Chul-joong (Sul Kyung-gu) might be described as an unconventional detective, who treats his superiors with disdain, traffics drugs on the side, behaves like a mental case and prefers to beat the living daylights out of suspects, rather than bother with interrogation. In the good cop/bad cop mould, he's the worse cop.

The fact that he is still on the force implies corruption, or intimidation. At the start of the film Kang's partner commits suicide when he hears that Internal Affairs are making enquiries. This line of investigation is shelved once the killer-in-waterproofs stabs his parents to death and has a go at Kang in the street.

There is no question who did it. The killer-in-waterproofs is Cho Gyu-hwan (Lee Sung-jae), an international fund manager in his early thirties, who is married, with a young son. Why he decides to go over to mum'n'dad's with an evil looking carving knife remains a mystery.

His connection with Kang is bizarre and accidental. It's the middle of the night and pouring with rain. Kang is taking a dump beside some dustbins when the killer-in-waterproofs happens by, having offed his folks a few minutes earlier. Kang feels aggrieved at Cho's mere existence and starts an argument. Cho brings out the weapon and slashes Kang in the face. He should have killed him, but doesn't, which leads to another hour-and-a-half of fruitless investigation and a personal vendetta.

Probably, the film doesn't travel, as it was South Korea's smash hit of 2002. Sul's method acting seems so overdone as to be an intentional pastiche and many of the supporting cast are comedians, implying that Western audiences, fed on formulaic action pictures, don't get the joke. What they do get is a fast paced, psychologically dubious thriller that behaves with the restraint of a looter in a riot.

Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2003
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A psychotic cop in Seoul has a vendetta against a businessman who murdered his parents.
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Keith Hennessey Brown **1/2

Director: Kang Woo-suk

Writer: Baek Seung-jae, Jung Yoon-seup, Kim Hyun-jung, Chae Yoon-suk

Starring: Sul Kyung-gu, Lee Sung-jae, Kang Shin-il, Kim Jung-hak, Doh Yong-gu, Ahn Na-sang, Lee Moon-s

Year: 2002

Runtime: 138 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: South Korea


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