Here you will find reviews of Korean gangster films. Please click on the picture, 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, and despite his violent tendencies and arrogance is one of the most compelling action protagonists in recent memory. A Bittersweet Life is a premier example of the innovation of Korean cinema, and a more than worthy addition to the genre.”

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 simplified and 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, that make Hindsight an occasionally stimulating but rather flawed addition.”

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 and fascinating 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, as well as underdeveloped characters. 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 of stylized action is exhilarating to behold. Yet the unbalanced narrative and lack of character development results in a lack of investment, particularly with the central female roles. No Blood No Tears is ultimately an enjoyable, though uneven, gangster romp.”

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, despite the competent directing on display. The film is saved however by Song Kang-ho’s wonderful performance as a sensitive father/criminal, and fans of the actor will no doubt 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). Conveyed as a gentleman’s game, 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 overly long running time and lack of character development stops the film from being a deep and compelling exploration. The Stone is a rather standard affair.

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