It never occurred to me there might still be significant mileage in the undercover cop melodrama. Or, for that matter, in the gangster melodrama. New World proves me uninformed on both points. Writer-director Park mixes both genres, somewhat unequally, and creates this unbelievably good film.
I use the adjective “unbelievably” because, for the most part, Park isn’t doing anything new. Sure, it’s modern and set in Korea, but there’s a lot of gangster standards at play. He just remixes them perfectly–there are a couple new features, of course–and has an amazing cast act them out.
For about half the film, Lee Jung-jae’s the lead. But then it switches over to Hwang Jeong-min, who kind of runs off with the picture. A lot of it is him facing off against villain Park Seong-Woong. Watching these two makes one forget Lee’s even in the picture–much less Choi Min-sik as the cop out to take down the gangsters–but director Park is able to bring it all back together.
Park never gets particularly showy with the direction. Beautiful photography from Chung Chung-hoon too. They’re both very controlled, making World an exceedingly measured, precise picture.
It’s hard to say who gives the film’s best performance. It wouldn’t work without Lee’s quiet turn as the primary lead, but it also wouldn’t work without Hwang’s viciously affable performance. And Park Seong-Woong just oozes controlled evil.
New World takes a while to get there, but it’s revelatory.
Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung; director of photography, Chung Chung-hoon; edited by Nam Na-yeong and Moon Sae-kyung; music by Jo Yeong-wook; produced by Kim Woo-taek and Park Min-jung; released by Next Entertainment World.
Starring Lee Jung-jae (Lee Ja-sung), Hwang Jung-min (Jung Chung), Park Seong-woong (Lee Joong-goo), Choi Min-sik (Kang Hyung-chul), Song Ji-hyo (Shin Woo), Kim Yoon-seong (Seok-moo), Na Kwang-hoon (Yang Moon-seok), Park Seo-yeon- (Joo-kyung), Choi Il-hwa (Director Jang Su-gi), Jang Gwang (Director Yang), Kwon Tae-won (Director Park), Kim Hong-pa (Director Kim) and Ju Jin-mo (Police commissioner Go).