Veteran (베테랑) – ★★★★☆

Veteran (베테랑)

Veteran (베테랑)

After a three month sting operation involving stolen cars, tough detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jeong-min (황정민) and his team, headed by Team Leader Oh (Oh Dal-soo (오달수), congratulate themselves and prepare for the inevitable promotion their work has wrought. Yet the celebration is cut short when Do-cheol’s truck driver friend Bae (Jeong Woong-in (정웅인) is critically hurt while protesting for unpaid wages, with all evidence pointing to rich, spoilt conglomerate owner’s son, Jo Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in (유아인). While Jo’s aide Choi Sang-moo (Yoo Hae-jin (유해진) attempts to use money and influence to have the case closed, Do-cheol is relentless in his pursuit for Jo’s incarceration.

No-nonsense detective Do-cheol finds himself in hot water during a car theft sting

No-nonsense detective Do-cheol finds himself in hot water during a car theft sting

Brilliantly entertaining, wonderfully inventive, and featuring a gripping politically-charged story alongside bone-crunching stunts, director Ryoo Seung-wan’s Veteran is easily the most exciting slice of Korean cinema in 2015 so far. In what has been a particularly poor year for the industry, Veteran offers a badly needed revitalising breath of fresh air as well as marking director Ryoo’s most accomplished work to date.

Veteran begins in incredibly strong fashion as Do-cheol and his team take down an international car smuggling ring, with the quips flying almost as fast as the punches. It’s a fantastically thrilling introduction to director Ryoo’s distinct stylisation as well as the quirky characters on the investigative team, as the film excels with brilliant tongue-in-cheek humour mixed with frenetic stunts to hugely entertaining effect. For action aficionados Veteran also manages to include comedic riffs on other examples of the genre, notably Transporter 2‘s garage sequence, to raise self-referential laughs. It all makes for one of the most high-octane adrenaline-pumping openings in recent memory and is an absolute riot.

After kicking off so impressively, Veteran‘s pacing dramatically changes gears in order to lay the foundations for the central narrative. It’s a jarring alteration yet also a necessary one, as helmer/scribe Ryoo takes his time to incorporate new conflicts and antagonists, building the politically-charged threats posed to palpable levels. It’s an effective technique that demands investment while allowing the film to roar to life through exciting set-pieces, culminating in an explosive pulse-pounding crescendo that will have audiences gasping, wincing and laughing in equal measure.

Jo Tae-oh, the young heir to a conglomerate, wields power and influence

Jo Tae-oh, the young heir to a conglomerate, wields power and influence

Veteran never forsakes the story for action, with the engaging narrative consistently touching upon highly politically sensitive issues within contemporary Korean culture. News media in the peninsula has for years reported on the spoilt and selfish behaviour displayed by chaebol (conglomerate) CEO’s children – the most recent of which was the infamous ‘nut rage’ incident – and Veteran picks up such themes brilliantly by exploring how such figures employ their power, finances and influence to avoid legalities. Bolstered by a basis in modern society, it’s great material for the genre, providing villainous personal and corporations and some compelling twists and turns, whilst also granting a sense of catharsis for the general public.

While corruption informs the impetus of the story, Veteran is also at its core a tale of two men in bitter conflict, and it’s hard to imagine any two actors other than Hwang Jung-min and Yo Ah-in fulfilling the roles so emphatically. Hwang Jung-min in particular is clearly having an absolute ball as detective Do-cheol, bringing incredible humour and charisma to the role so that even when he is being stubborn and downright dirty, he is nothing less than engrossing. Yoo Ah-in meanwhile is in absolute top form as the vile Jo Tae-oh, with his performance earning considerable praise. The characterisation is a tad excessive yet Yoo Ah-in commits so confidently that he’s an absolute joy to hate. Legendary supporting actor Oh Dal-so gets some of the film’s best laughs, while it’s great to see Yoo Hae-jin, who’s often typecast in comedic roles, stretched into new terrain.

Although an enormously entertaining film, Veteran is not without problems. Writer/director Ryoo still seems to have difficulty writing three-dimensional female characters, constructing them either as nagging bitches or wholesome victims. Miss Bong, wonderfully portrayed by Jang Yoon-ju, is somewhat of an exception and a welcome kick-ass heroine but tends to provide punchlines rather than development.

That aside, Veteran is easily the best slice of popcorn cinema this year and a joyous thrill ride from start to finish.

Do-cheol chases his adversary in a thrilling finale through the streets of Seoul

Do-cheol chases his adversary in a thrilling finale through the streets of Seoul

Verdict:

Veteran is a revitalising, pulse-pounding action/thriller from director Ryoo Seung-wan. Examining the corruption in chaebols has never been so cathartic as the film is consistently entertaining, wonderfully inventive and featuring some truly exciting and hilarious stunts that has audiences gasping, wincing and laughing in equal measure. Easily the best slice of popcorn cinema in 2015.

★★★★☆

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Doctor and single mother Kim In-hye works with the source of the contagion

The Flu (감기) – ★★☆☆☆

The Flu (감기)

The Flu (감기)

With the outbreaks of several different strains of influenza over the past few years, the epidemic disaster movie has gained traction in cinemas internationally. The all-too-real dangers of a new, incurable disease ravaging a population tap into social anxieties in a palpable fashion, also providing opportunities for governmental criticism. 2012’s Deranged (연가시) was a highly enjoyable B-movie that explored such concepts with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility, in part highlighting the corruption of pharmaceutical companies. 2013, meanwhile, sees the release of a more serious endeavour in the form of The Flu (감기).

From beginning to end, The Flu is a poor film. Featuring an overabundance of wafer-thin and poorly conceived characters, gaping plot holes and over-zealous nationalism, the film is a disappointment in almost every respect. While the scale of certain sets – and one or two shocking revelations – are impressive, The Flu is an incredibly naive portrayal of disease containment and fails to  generate the necessary tension to be engaging or entertaining.

Doctor and single mother Kim In-hye works with the source of the contagion

Doctor and single mother Kim In-hye works with the source of the contagion

When a container transporting citizens from Hong Kong to Korea is opened, the traffickers are shocked to find everyone dead inside. Everyone, that is, except one – a young man carrying a mutated form of the influenza virus. Evading the criminals, the young man runs into Seoul satellite city Bundang, unleashing his disease upon the unsuspecting populace. As people begin to die at a ferociously quick pace, doctor Kim In-hye (Soo-ae (수애) is called in to help with the situation. Yet in doing so she leaves her daughter Mir-re (Park Min-ha (박민하) alone, who finds protection under emergency service worker Kang Ji-goo (Jang Hyeok (장혁). However as the crisis escalates and Bundang is locked down, all the citizens are placed together in quarantine camps, and the situation rapidly goes from bad to worse.

When people are dying in scores, it is pivotal to have a central cast of engaging protagonists. Their struggle to survive against the odds forms the heart of the epidemic/disaster film, and the drama and tension derived from their actions imbues the story with conviction and excitement. In this sense, writer/director Kim Seong-su (김성수) fails spectacularly as the characterisation is woeful throughout The Flu. Korean media has long had problems in representing career women and single mothers positively, and both sexist stereotypes are merged into the character of In-hye. What should be a strong, intelligent, independent woman is reduced to a hostile ice queen whose selfishness has few boundaries. Similarly daughter Mir-re, while very cute, is precocious and insubordinate. As such, both must be ‘saved’ by white knight emergency worker Ji-goo, who as well as consistently reminding everyone how noble he is, displays compassion that far exceeds the realm of believability. Yet the narrative is further populated with evermore one-dimensional stereotypes, featuring comedic sidekicks, blustering politicians, a revenge-seeking brother, faceless soldiers suddenly provided with melodrama, and so forth. Not only is it a huge waste of acting talent – notably Soo-ae, Ma Deong-seok and Park Jeong-min in this regard – but it also sucks any impetus from proceedings, making it difficult to care if any of them survive.

In-hye and daughter Mir-re are forced into the quarantine camp

In-hye and daughter Mir-re are forced into the quarantine camp

The story itself is also often ludicrous. The film opens with Ji-goo rescuing In-hye who has, rather inconveniently, driven into a cavern that apparently exists on a main highway. The emergency worker also later leaves the sleeping Mir-re on a bench while he races up and down several escalators to save a woman in danger of falling, rather than to call the person nearest to her for help. Such acts of wanton stupidity litter the narrative and seem to build in absurdity, particularly so during the overt nationalistic agenda throughout the film. According to The Flu Korea is a country under siege, ranging from diseases from China through to American political domination. American interference in Korean politics certainly exists, however within The Flu director Kim exaggerates the issue to such a degree that he portrays the Korean president as a powerless, idealistic victim, betrayed by his ministers who opt to follow an American politician insistent on wiping out the entire population of Bundang. Terrible acting aside, the patriotic grandstanding that occurs during such scenes are beyond ridiculous, while the decisions they execute are so illogical it beggars belief.

Ironically such policies enforced by the bizarre government create some of the more visually stirring moments within the film.  The internment camps feature some interesting scenes despite the rather obvious budget limitations, while the disposal of the dead is particularly striking. The riots by Bundang citizens over their treatment in the camps are also impressive in scale, although the motivations and subsequent melodrama are so naive and silly that they render the spectacle of the situation redundant.

Rioting breaks out as the Bundang citizens discover the truth about their incarceration

Rioting breaks out as the Bundang citizens discover the truth about their incarceration

Verdict:

The Flu is an attempt to produce a more serious approach to the epidemic disaster film, yet writer/director Kim Seong-su fails to make the film engaging and entertaining in almost every respect. Featuring wafer-thin stereotype characters the film is huge waste of acting talent, while the escalating acts of stupidity committed by them quickly enters the realm of absurdity. With huge plot holes in conjunction with incredibly over-zealous nationalism, The Flu is a blockbuster to avoid.

★★☆☆☆

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Jang-saeng and Gong-gil perform their popular routines for unappreciative nobility

The King and the Clown (왕의 남자) – ★★★★☆

The King and the Clown (왕의 남자)

The King and the Clown (왕의 남자)

As a breathtaking romantic period-drama set during the Joseon dynasty, The King and the Clown is, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the highest grossing films in Korean cinema history. However what may be surprising for some is that the romance is homosexual in nature, particularly in a culture where such relationships remain largely taboo. Yet despite such prejudice the film has not only garnered incredible critical praise and commercial success, but has also acted as something of a catalyst for a shift in ignorance largely thanks to androgynous actor Lee Joon-ki.

Two talented male minstrels – ruggedly masculine Jang-saeng (Kam Woo-seong (감우성) and delicately feminine Gong-gil (Lee Joon-ki (이준기) – are the leads in an acting troupe that perform for nobility in Joseon dynasty-era Korea. After the performances, Gong-gil is often forced into sexual slavery by their corrupt manager for extra money, sickening his partner. Unable to continue the de-humanising practice, the pair escape and depart for Seoul to earn their fortunes as performance artists and comedians in the capital city. Upon hearing of the cruel absurdities of the current ruler King Yeon-san (Jeong Jin-yeong (정진영), the duo join forces with other street performers to enact a comical tale ridiculing the King with the truths that others are too scared to tell. Their popularity is such that government officials take note, punishing them violently. However they are spared upon one condition – they must perform their mocking routine in front of the King himself, and, should he laugh, Jang-saeng and Gong-gil will be freed.

Jang-saeng and Gong-gil perform their popular routines for unappreciative nobility

Jang-saeng and Gong-gil perform their popular routines for unappreciative nobility

The King and the Clown – or more literally translated as ‘The King’s Man’ – is an incredibly poignant and captivating film and a wonderfully colourful historical tale. This is largely due to the partnership between the highly charismatic lead protagonists who never cease to be compelling, and an extremely well-balanced script by Choi Seok-hwan (최석환) who artfully plays with pacing to provide sensitive and thought provoking scenes throughout. Characterization is central to the success of the film, providing fully-rounded roles to individuals who could easily be stereotyped by continually emphasizing their emotional complexity. Jang-saeng is a gifted athlete and performer, with an over-powering compulsion to be truthful and to upset those in power through disrespect; Gong-gil is an equally talented artist who is as adept at acting as he is beautiful, aware that both features are a blessing and a curse; even King Yeon-san, who is often described in the annals of history as the most brutal and selfish ruler in the Joseon era, is portrayed as a psychologically damaged man through childhood torment and the pressures of court. In each case, the narrative allows the protagonists the time to convey their motivations – conscious or otherwise – while the actors that portray them fully inhabit their roles and are utterly convincing whenever they appear on screen.

The concept of truth-through-performance is masterfully conveyed, recalling the likes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet of the ‘play within a play’. As such the film operates as an insightful commentary of the era, depicting the obscurity of truth that is seemingly inherent with power as well as the corruption and tyranny of those in court, through traditional cultural forms. Due to this The King and the Clown expresses a grand, ‘epic’ quality, one which is unfortunately not capitalized on by director Lee Joon-ik. The director is highly competent throughout the film, featuring some wonderful set-pieces and intimate sequences, yet he falters in conveying the grandiose scale of Joseon and the palace in particular, with an establishing shot of Seoul the only notable exception. Despite such shortcomings director Lee Joon-ik is incredibly skilled at conveying intimacy and poignancy as he visualizes the cultural flair and exhibitions with passion and verve, in conjunction with the violence and intense distress that consistently follows. The director’s representation of the homosexual relationships within the film are cautious and understated yet rather than a criticism this actually infers a more innocent and a sweet natured love, although some factions of the audience may take issue with King Yeon-san’s dalliance with Gong-gil as the product of an unresolved Oedipal complex.

The vindictive King Yeon-san and his concubine observe the performers

The vindictive King Yeon-san and his consort observe the performers

As comic performers Jang-saeng and Gong-gil, Kam Woo-seong and Lee Joon-ki are absolutely enthralling. Kam Woo-seong masterfully conveys the arrogance and audacity of the character, with his unbridled distain for those of a higher societal position palpable. The actor is wonderfully charismatic yet simultaneously tragic, traits that he exemplifies through every mannerism and facial expression with sincerity. Such a description also befits Lee Joon-ki who, as the androgynously beautiful Gong-gil, is a delight. He conveys femininity and elegance with startling conviction, with his resignation to fulfill his sexual role following the performances tender and heartbreaking. His character is as much a commentary about the manipulation of women as it is about homosexuals by those in power, and Lee Joon-ki does not disappoint in emphasizing the sheer injustice of societal inequality.

As the film’s other central protagonist, Jeong Jin-yeong is also frighteningly mesmerizing as King Yeon-san. The actor eloquently conveys the sadistically tragic nature of the ruler as he unpredictably switches emotions on a whim, portraying the leader as an underdeveloped adolescent in one breathe whilst in the next a violent and cruel man. As such Jeong Jin-yeong is fascinating to watch as the long hidden truths are revealed, for his reactions are unpredictably horrifying.

Through the performances, Jang-saeng and Gong-gil reveal truths to King Yeon-san, which often incur violence

Through their performances Jang-saeng and Gong-gil reveal truths to King Yeon-san, which often incur violence

Verdict:

The King and the Clown is an amazing tale and a wonderful journey through one of the darkest eras of the Joseon dynasty. The narrative and characterization are excellent, as is the acting by all the principal cast who never cease to be enthralling and compelling. While the directing is somewhat lacking in scale the emphasis on intimacy and poignancy makes the film and enduring classic and a testament to the creative qualities of Korean filmmakers.

★★★★☆

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Detective Choi risks everything to keep the scandal secret

The Unjust (부당거래) – ★★★★☆

The Unjust (부당거래)

The Unjust (부당거래)

If there is one universal truth within Korean cinema, it is the representation of every level of the law enforcement infrastructure as incompetent, unprofessional, and corrupt. In certain cases, such as true-life thriller Memories of Murder (2003), the result can be an incredibly intense and fascinating character study; in other more generic offerings such as S.I.U. (2011) the incompetence of the force is frustratingly infuriating. Yet regardless of whether the central protagonist(s) are operating within law enforcement or without, the abuse of human rights, flagrant disregard for procedure and scandalous corruption are seemingly inherent to the respective institutions.

The Unjust (부당거래), director Ryoo Seung-wan‘s (류승완) eighth feature, continues such ideological distrust with the auteur’s trademark wit, ingenuity and postmodern sensibilities. With an incredible screenplay by Park Hoon-jeong (박훈정), The Unjust is a highly engaging and intense thriller featuring electric performances by the principal cast and arguably the highlight of Ryoo Seung-wan’s career thus far, winning ‘Best Film’ at 2011 The Blue Dragon Awards.

With intense mounting pressure from the media, citizens and politicians, the police are desperate to catch the perpetrator of the serial rape and murder of young girls in Seoul. Yet when the only major suspect is killed, the law enforcement are in dire need of someone to take the blame and to be held accountable. Director Kang (Cheon Ho-jin (천호진) believes he has the perfect officer to find such a scapegoat – Choi Cheol-gi  (Hwang Jeong-min (황정민), an incredibly efficient officer who is routinely passed over for promotion as he did not emerge through the academy. Employing the help of gangster Jang Seok-goo (Yoo Hae-jin (유해진), the pair find a viable replacement. Yet Jang’s corrupt business rival enlists the help of Prosecutor Joo-yang (Ryoo Seung-beom (류승범) to find something – anything – that will stop Jang and Choi and allow his business to prosper. As the fate of all three becomes increasingly intertwined, they delve deeper into a moral abyss from which they may never return.

Detective Choi (right) enlists the help of Jang to find a scapegoat

Detective Choi (right) enlists the help of Jang to find a scapegoat

The script by Park Hoon-jeong – which received the best screenplay award at The Blue Dragon Awards – wonderfully balances the array of characters and plot threads at an incredible pace, rarely slowing the momentum or intensity. From the second the film begins the speed at which the narrative is set-up and the players are introduced is spectacular, conveying the seriousness of the situation convincingly. Director Ryoo Seung-wan – who also received an award at The Blue Dragon Awards for best directing – brings the script to life with confidence and style, with camera movement and rapid editing raising the level of excitement to a staggering level. The partnership between both filmmakers is seemingly a perfect match as their respective styles compliment one another in tone, pace and content. The array of socio-cultural discourses and anxieties within The Unjust are vast, from minor subtle issues such as favoritism within the police department, public hysteria and presidential involvement, to more scandalous affairs including secret meetings with criminals, corruption, and personal promotion over public service.

The relationships between protagonists and the various underhanded methods employed to gain leverage are brilliantly portrayed and are highly engaging. In particular Detective Choi and Prosecutor Joo-yang are excellent character studies as well as serving as mirrors of each other, of which they are subconsciously aware as they attempt to prove their superiority through obtaining incriminating evidence. Their methods of corruption are wonderfully explored, with Detective Choi more violent, impoverished and urban while Prosecutor Joo-yang meets executives at fancy restaurants and is introduced to high-ranking officials through his father-in-law. Even the gangsters they deal with have differing social statuses, and as such The Unjust is also concerned with class divide and power, as well as the motivations and loop-holes that are exploited in corrupting those within.

Prosecutor Joo-yang and Detective Choi confront each other over their corrupt behaviour

Prosecutor Joo-yang and Detective Choi confront each other over their corrupt behaviour

Hwang Jeong-min gives a towering performance as Detective Choi Cheol-gi, with his absence from the ‘Best Actor’ category a bizarre oversight. The actor convincing conveys the underdog cop as a violent and diligent yet honest man, who is forced to sink ever-lower due to the request of his captain. His mere physical presence adds intensity to each scene with his height and mannerisms an intimidatingly powerful force. Hwang Jeong-min is so compelling as the violent corrupt cop that when he eventually breaks down it is something of a visceral shock, adding a dimension to his character that creates empathy despite his crimes.

Ryoo Seung-beom is also highly competent as Prosecutor Joo-yang, conveying weasely charm in abundance and is a delight to hate. The actor, nominated for his role, also adds a comedic sensibility to his role as he slithers from one lie to the next as he attempts to rectify his situation wth his superiors and corrupt colleagues. As a slight negative, Ryoo Seung-beom does have a tendency to shout his lines rather than act them which can be distracting.

As street gangster-turned-businessman Jang Seok-goo, actor Yoo Hae-jin is terrific. Also nominated for his supporting role, Yoo Hae-jin oozes criminality and effectively conveys his internal war with his urban thug mentality hiding beneath his fitted suits. The actor clearly relishes scenes in which he gains the upper-hand, smarmy and condescending with glee at the misfortune of his rivals and partners.

Detective Choi risks everything to keep the scandal secret

Detective Choi risks everything to keep the scandal secret

Verdict:

The Unjust is not simply another continuation of Korean cinema’s distrust of law enforcement agencies; it is an incredibly thrilling and compelling exploration of an array of socio-cultural discourses and anxieties, articulated with an intelligent script and visualised with a career-best by director Ryoo Seung-wan. The fast pace, confident stylisation and electric performances make The Unjust one of the best cop thrillers in recent years and a fantastic addition to the genre.

★★★★☆

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Hae-gook must traverse a literal tunnel of deceit

Moss (이끼) – ★★★★☆

Moss (이끼)

Moss (이끼)

The corruption of the ruling elite is certainly nothing new in Korean cinema. After years of military dictatorships and scandalous corporate backhanders, it’s clearly understandable why such themes are continuously prevalent. However these narratives often approach from a reactionary perspective, highlighting the suffering of those victimized by injustices. Little explored are the foundations of a community, the roles and interplay of law, religion, power, crime and punishment in the creation of a society. Such Shakespearean motifs are traditionally reserved for period dramas, yet Kang Woo-seok’s (강우석) Moss (이끼) wonderfully examines the labyrinthine networks of power in a contemporary village in Gangwon province. Based on the incredibly popular internet comic, Moss is an exhilarating and fresh addition to the thriller genre.

While struggling against a law suit, Ryoo Hae-gook (Park Hae-il (박해일) receives news that his estranged father, Yoo Mok-hyeong (Heo Joon-ho (허준호), has died. Visiting the estate, Hae-gook is surprised to learn of his late father’s role as one of the elder statesmen of the village, yet merely wishes to resolve  any outstanding affairs and return to his life in Seoul. However Hae-gook’s curiosity is piqued when his father’s partner, the powerful village foreman Cheon Yong-deok (Jeong Jae-yeong (정재영) and his three right-hand men – Kim Deok-cheon (Yoo Hae-jin (유해진), Jeon Seok-man (Kim Sang-ho (김상호), and Ha Seong-gyoo (Kim Joon-bae (김준배) – continually attempt to persuade him to leave.  As Hae-gook digs deeper into the mystery of his father’s death and the strange behaviour of the residents, he must confront the disturbing truth about the village and its inhabitants.

The residents of the village are not all they seem

The residents of the village are not all they seem

Screenwriter Jeong Ji-woo (정지우) has translated the web-comic to film with incredible skill, lacing each protagonist with depth and nuance – as well as fully realised character arcs – that makes each confrontation compelling viewing. This is remarkable as the 163 minute running time may seem excessive, but the narrative is so fueled with suspense and the protagonists so fascinating that the time is hardly noticeable. The plot is the epitome of labyrinthine, carefully taking time to construct the scenario through flashbacks and the creation (and breakdown) of relationships through subtle character defining events. Director Kang Woo-seok is impressive in visualizing such dense material, from the intimidating fortress overlooking the village to the claustrophobic subterranean tunnels. Praise should also be bestowed upon the set design, lighting and editing departments, who display ingenuity in creating the tension-filled world of Moss.

The actors are also wonderful in bringing the community of Moss alive. Park Hae-il is excellent as the idealistic Hae-gook who is continually involved in events beyond his understanding, while his nemeses – Yoo Hae-jin, Kim Sang-ho and Kim Joon-bae – are incredibly unnerving and intense in portraying the criminal classes/extensions of power. However, the most exceptional performance belongs to Jeong Jae-yeong, who is loud, violent and ambitious as a young man, but silently commands respect as an elder. The sheer intensity conveyed through his expressions is amazingly sinister, demanding obedience with merely a glance. The weakest link is Yoo Seon as store owner Lee Yeong-ji through no fault on her part, as her role is virtually forgotten until the third act when her presence is suddenly elevated into a lead protagonist.

Hae-gook must traverse a literal tunnel of deceit

Hae-gook must traverse a literal tunnel of deceit

Thematically, Moss is also a triumph. The portrayal of corruption seemingly endemic with the ruling elite is hardly original, but Moss strives to explore all areas in the creation of a society, notably the role of religion. As such, the village in Moss acts as a microcosm for society, and how the younger generation must fight against the greed of their elders. Yong-deok, the village foreman, was a corrupt police officer in his youth but his ambition for power was continually unfulfilled. That is, until he met Mok-hyeong, a man with a violent past that had apparently found redemption through religion who was quickly amassing followers. The jealousy for power and influence ultimately fuels their relationship, yet both are keenly aware that alone they can achieve little. In joining forces to create a community both men have similar intentions but are ideologically opposed, as they wish to exert dominance over others but through different means. Each man is clearly representative of the ideological vie for power in society, and the process in which they become increasingly more corrupt is as organic as it is alarming. There is rather blatant bias however, as Mok-hyeong’s Christian ideology is constantly  represented as inherently ‘good’ which diminishes the exploration somewhat.

In discovering the sinister origins of the village, Hae-gook is representative of the younger generation that must reveal and persecute such greed. Hae-gook studies old books and documents, finds subterranean tunnels, and must even join forces with an enemy in the pursuit of his father’s murderer. As a young divorcee, Hae-gook embodies the change in society as the shift away from tradition becomes ever more apparent. His naivety and idealism is endearing but simultaneously foolhardy, as he continually fails to understand the larger events at hand.

The young and idealistic Hae-gook must face the old and corrupt Yong-deok

The young and idealistic Hae-gook must face the old and corrupt Yong-deok

Verdict:

Moss is a incredibly well executed thriller that delves into Shakespearean themes of the vie for power amongst the ruling classes. The interplay of different features of society, from religion to the criminal classes, constructs a dense tale of suspense that highlights the unfairness, and the generational differences, within a culture and emphasizes the importance of prosecuting the corrupt. The bias nature in representing Christianity, and the under-developed female role slightly detract from the viewing experience, but despite this Moss is a highly entertaining and compelling foray into corruption in contemporary Korea.

★★★★☆

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