The crime drama is a well traveled genre and is one that has delighted audiences all across the globe. Some of the best of the genre that North America has ever produced have also inspired some damn fine ones from the pacific rim and the countries of China, Japan and especially Korea. “New World” takes some of the best elements from the violence filled gangster thriller and adapts them to make it unique, fresh and something that you just can’t look away from.
In “New World” the head of the Goldmoon crime syndicate is dead, leaving his top two lieutenants to now vie for the job. Seizing the opportunity, the police launch an operation called “New World,” with the perfect weapon. The boss’ right hand man, Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae), who has been a deep-cover operative for 8 years, closely watched by handler Police chief Kang (Choi Min-Sik). With a baby on the way, and living in mortal fear of being exposed as a mole, Ja-sung is torn between his duty and honor as a cop, and the fiercely loyal gang members who will follow him to hell and back. Using inside information from Ja-sung to damage the relationship between the two feuding contenders, suspicions grow that a traitor lives in their ranks. The ruthless Jeong (Hwang Jung-min) escalates the game by hiring hackers to search the police database. As Operation New World closes in, and with the stakes climbing higher and a gangland bloodbath guaranteed among those that remain, Ja-sung makes a final, shocking decision no one could have predicted.
For only his second trip in the director’s chair, Park Hoon-jung has crafted a slick crime drama that admittedly draws from a variety of obvious influences at times is still a tightly wound pot boiler of a film that will put you on the edge of your seat from minute one. It’s the kind of film that keeps the spark alive from an intellectual basis as the back and forth manoeuvrings and human chess playing is a marvel to watch as all these different factions vie for power and maintaining their own interests. Hoon-jung’s script while a little slow in the first act picks up steam at all the right moments, slowly sucking the audience into the intense drama of it all and the impossible choices that these characters are forced to make. He admittedly borrows quite liberally from a number of other films but it is so well executed that it provides for some great viewing thanks to some solid lead performances.
Lee Jung-jae as the conflicted Ja-sung draws us in as a man on the edge between living a normal life or a life who commands loyalty power and respect at every single turn as both sides of his conscience and his life pull at him to the point where he is forced to make some very difficult choices. The iconic Choi Min-sik as the rough around the edges police chief Kang gristles when he’s on screen with a sincere I don’t give a… kind of attitude and it works to perfection as both these men are working towards very different ends and both man has reached the point where the other has simply become too unpredictable and neither man can trust the other. Both actors slid into the roles with ease and worked exceptionally well when together and even better when apart as both men command the screen at every frame. Hwang Jung-min brings a manic energy as Jeong the friend and partner to Ja-sung that could easily hug him one minute or stab him to death the next one.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray were obviously first rate and the special features include a Making Of documentary, a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.
While watching this film you couldn’t help but get the feeling that writer/director Park Hoon-jung wanted “New World” to be an iconic gangster that would transcend language barriers and be remembered alongside some of the Hollywood classics. The film doesn’t quite get there given the numerous elements borrowed from films that so obviously inspired him, it gets pretty darn close and is a highly entertaining gangster flick that is more than worth a look.
4 out of 5 stars.
“New World” is available to rent on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from all major providers, you can also find it available for purchase from retailers like HMV, iTunes and amazon.ca.
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