Korean director Won-Tae Lee’s previous film was Man of Will, a period drama about the mistreatment of Korean prisoners. This latest outing is a whole other genre, a classic kick-ass cop movie with the great Dong-seok Ma in one of the lead roles.
As you might have gathered from the title, the three leads are Dong-seok Ma as the Gangster, a lumbering solid mass of trouble who runs illegal slot machine arcades and has his fingers in other pies across town. The Cop is Mu-Yeol Kim, a maverick officer who plays by his own rules. He is a constant thorn in the side of the Gangster but is frustrated by his boss being in cahoots with the mob, curtailing his ability to work. The Devil (Kim Sung Gyu) is a lone serial killer, setting up his kills by bumping into the back of his chosen victim’s car and then slashing them to death with his lethal blade. The three men’s stories become intertwined when the Devil foolishly bumps the Gangster’s car. Finally meeting his match, the killer makes his escape. The wounded and humiliated Gangster agrees to work together with the Cop in order to hunt down the Devil and thus an unlikely alliance begins as they race to find their quarry.
This race is a joyous ride as the two men and their allies get the hunt underway. The scenes of the police and the gang members establishing an awkward camaraderie is particularly fun, as is the gangsters’ rallying toast – “Our dicks may be many, but our heart is one!” And as the Gangster, Dong-seok Ma is such a pleasure to watch. The scene introducing him sets him up as a sadistic and merciless killing machine, but he has his rules and his loyalties. He knows he is a bad man, but not a monster. But make no mistake: this man is all muscle and knuckle and he is happy to exercise both, slapping and punching his way through the film with gusto.
The music is great, too, and pounds our eardrums while the men pound their umpteenth adversary. And not only are there great fight sequences, there are some pretty good car chases, too, particularly towards the end of the movie as it reaches its climax. The director-cum-screenwriter adds some nice little twists to this violent and bloody tale without exercising his audience too much. If you are watching The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil you are doing it for the action more than the complicated narrative, though that is not to say the film is unintelligent.
It takes a look at Korean society and police corruption and the fine line that both sides of the law tread as well as being about friendship and the compromises we make in relationships. And it has a very satisfactory finale. With just two films under his belt, Won-Tae Lee looks like he will continue the tradition of great Korean filmmaking.