Here you will find reviews of Korean gangster and crime films. Please click on the picture or title, and you will be taken to the review.

A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생)

A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생)

A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생) – ★★★★★

A Bittersweet Life is an incredibly stylised action/gangster/noir thriller that is head-and-shoulders above other recent examples of the genre. As always, director Kim Ji-woon doesn’t disappoint. Lee Byeong-Heon gives a wonderful performance as the flawed anti-hero. A Bittersweet Life is a premier example of the innovation of Korean cinema, and a worthy addition to the genre.”

Coin Locker Girl (차이나타운)

Coin Locker Girl (차이나타운)

Coin Locker Girl (차이나타운) – ★★★☆☆

Coin Locker Girl is a visually impressive debut by writer/direcor Han Jun-jee, who employs striking colours and skewed camera angles to generate intensity. Narratively however the crime drama is weak, yet the film is saved by a transformative performance by Kim Hye-soo who brings palpable gravitas to the role to make Coin Locker Girl an entertaining effort.”

Coin Locker (코인라커)

Coin Locker (코인라커)

Coin Locker (코인라커) – ★☆☆☆☆

Coin Locker is an erratic crime-drama by director Kim Tae-kyung. Featuring a particularly uncoordinated narrative, haphazard characterisation and large plot holes, the film is consistently lacking and is often unintentionally comical. While it attempts to amalgamate various conventions they never successfully coalesce, and as such Coin Locker ultimately falls flat.”

Dynamite Man (다이너마이트맨)

Dynamite Man (다이너마이트맨)

Dynamite Man (다이너마이트맨) – ★☆☆☆☆

“A title such as Dynamite Man conjures images of a fun grindhouse B-movie. However the reality is a far cry from such hopes as the film is an utterly woeful attempt at a revenge thriller. While novice director Jeong Hyuk-won does well in constructing flashback sequences, taken as a whole Dynamite Man is a sleep-inducing film and one to be avoided.”

Gangnam Blues (강남 1970)

Gangnam Blues (강남 1970)

Gangnam Blues (강남 1970) – ★★★☆☆

Gangnam Blues is the concluding chapter in writer/director Yoo Ha’s ‘street trilogy’ and marks what is arguably his most visually sophisticated film to date. While he makes great use of colour and environments, and the story of Gangnam’s origins is an interesting one, the crime drama lacks compulsion becoming quite repetitive and tedious during the overly long running time.”

Hindsight (푸른 소금)

Hindsight (푸른 소금)

Hindsight (푸른 소금) – ★★★☆☆

Hindsight is a problematic entry into the gangster genre due to the lack of cohesion between the disparate genres, in conjunction with underdeveloped characterization. As such the film’s identity and the narrative direction are often highly ambiguous, despite the competent direction particularly in regard to the action sequences.”

Nameless Gangster (범죄와의 전쟁: 나쁜놈들 전성시대)

Nameless Gangster (범죄와의 전쟁: 나쁜놈들 전성시대)

Nameless Gangster (범죄와의 전쟁: 나쁜놈들 전성시대) – ★★★☆☆

Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time is a compelling  film about the nature, and evolution, of crime and corruption in Korea. With an absorbing narrative, wonderful set and costume design, and entertaining performances, the film is generally let down by the lack of tension and suspense. That said, Nameless Gangster is an enjoyable yarn of power and social relationships in a country still struggling to shake off the ramifications of the war on crime.”

No Blood No Tears (피도 눈물도 없이)

No Blood No Tears (피도 눈물도 없이)

No Blood No Tears (피도 눈물도 없이) – ★★★☆☆

No Blood No Tears is a gritty, urban tale of gangsters and charlatans in a Korea-meets-Pulp Fiction style. Director Ryoo Seung-wan has crafted a world of danger and violence with expert use of lighting and environments, while his trademark stylized action is exhilarating to behold. Yet the unbalanced narrative and lack of character development results in a lack of investment.”

The Shameless (무뢰한)

The Shameless (무뢰한)

The Shameless (무뢰한) – ★★★☆☆

The Shameless is a gritty noir crime story by helmer/scribe Oh Seung-wook, who brilliantly employs the urban landscapes of Seoul to construct a visually stimulating film. While the opening is effective in establishing a compelling thriller and the ever-reliable Jeon Do-yeon adds sophistication, the narrative slips into tepid drama and an overly long uninspired finale.”

The Show Must Go On (우아한 세계)

The Show Must Go On (우아한 세계)

The Show Must Go On (우아한 세계) – ★★★☆☆

The Show Must Go On is a unique offering by director Han Jae-rim, who seeks to construct a gangster comedy with ironic and satirical sensibilities. The result is very hit-and-miss with a tone that is generally all over the place. The film is saved however by Song Kang-ho’s performance as a sensitive father/criminal, and fans of the actor will find much to enjoy.”

The Stone (스톤)

The Stone (스톤)

The Stone (스톤) – ★★☆☆☆

The Stone is an interesting drama about the game of baduk (Go). Director Cho Se-rae uses it as a way for characters to develop relationships, as well as a window into the gambling habits of the criminal underworld. Yet the lack of character development stops the film from being a compelling exploration and as such The Stone is a rather standard affair.

The Thieves (도둑들)

The Thieves (도둑들)

The Thieves (도둑들) – ★★★☆☆

The Thieves is an entertaining crime caper, and a real pleasure to witness some of the best stars in Korea go head-to-head in a ‘winner take all’ race to the finish. Director Choi Dong-hoon juggles the excessive cast well throughout the convoluted narrative. The Thieves is pure popcorn cinema, and consistently entertaining, silly, fun.”

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