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Public Enemy (KOREA 2002)

Director : Wook-Suk Kang
Cast : Kyung-gu Sol, Sung-jae Lee, Shin-il Kang, Jeong-hak Kim and Yong-gu Do.

Ruthless cop Chul-Joong and a merciless killer in a raincoat run into each other in a small alleyway and form a fatal bond. A free-for-all fight occurs by coincidence on a rainy street. A week later, the dead bodies of an old couple are discovered…

by Edward Tang

I beg of everyone today, do not compare your film to another on the DVD cover because you won’t get my business. It’s a shame that films given this added touch like this can’t sell themselves enough to generate good buzz for just being a good f*ckin’ movie by itself. This film on the other hand didn’t need anything like “The Korean Dirty Harry” because Public Enemy is a great film without any doubt. Sure, it follows the same type of role that Dirty Harry made famous (The renegade cop not following the rules bit that has been done so many times it really sucks) but thankfully this film has enough going for it to make you forget all about that tacked on marketing shit. I enjoyed myself during this film, especially for the performance from Kyung-gu Sol whom plays the role better than most of have tried the same crappy path. This film also has a nice standard, instead of relying on a SURPRISE killer at the end, we are given him in the beginning and guess what? They still get the job done at the end of the day. Sure the plot has been beat to death, but thankfully there is enough black humor and other shit to make this film worth watching again.

(Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar) Cheol-jung is a RUTHLESS homicide detective, one who doesn’t give a shit about the rules. He has money problems, he’s getting investigated by the Internal Affairs and he doesn’t mind punching a few gangsters to get some information. One night on lookout, he needs to crap, so like a man he shits on the street. He bumps into a hooded man, who he confronts and eventually they throw down in a fight, leaving Cheol-jung sliced. This man is named Kyuhwan, he’s a rich asshole who had just finished killing his parents just before knocking into the shitting police officer. Evidence piles up, and Cheol-jung suspects that Kyuhwan is behind the entire thing. We know he is, as does Cheol-jung, but he can’t prove shit. Eventually the dozens of confrontations with Kyuhwan gets him demoted down to a crappy traffic officer. Hell even the cocky Kyuhwan gets into the shit and kills some guy who poured milk all over him. Does this matter to a RENEGADE? No. Cheol-jung finds the missing piece to the puzzle, a fingernail that was knocked off of Kyuhwan’s finger that made it’s way into his mother’s throat. Of course, Cheol-jung goes back into the detective business and puts that bastard behind bars! 100+100+15….215 years!

It was truly hard for me to stop watching this flick because I really got into it and that surprised me. The fact that surprised me was that it truly didn’t break any ground in the genre, maybe in a few comedy notes mixed in with graphic stabbing scenes but nothing more than that. I never got bored during this film and even though I knew the probable outcome, I still was hooked into this guy and waiting for the conclusion which ended the right way. The conflicting natures in this film is two people who are assholes in general, one being a little more harsh than the other. The question of ethics and police procedure breaks into the mind of the average police officer but not to him. That was basically the cliche factor of this film, the stale nature of the plot that wasn’t improved in this film at all. The movement of this film relied on the constant jabs and humorous notes from most of the cast, which worked on all accounts. From fart gags to the classic “putting your hand in shit”, this film is all over the place. Then we get a married couple stabbed to death in the most heinous way possible (Take into account that the stabber stabbed his parents).

Hell, there were even some kickass fight scenes in this film. Well, maybe not KICKASS but still fun. Cheol-jung just needed to get a few things off of his chest, and he goes and takes control of what looks like a robbery. He takes these assholes out and makes them clean up the mess they made, that’s justice. This is the type of ending I like in a film by the way. Cheol-jung doesn’t arrest him or shoot him dead, he kicks the shit out of this guy, pours flour on the guy (This is the “mark” he left on his victims), lights a cigarette and takes a seat on his lifeless form. It’s hard not to like the character in general, he knows his shit and doesn’t fuck around. But as we fall again, the character doesn’t really fall into the classic Clint Eastwood variation but more of a loser-type who still can kick ass and crap on sidewalks.

The direction is sharp, can you go ask just anyone to make a serial killer movie where the serial killer is revealed in the first scene, and make it good? Doubtful. His style and pace is excellent, shifting easily from an intense thriller back to a slapstick comedy. I’ve heard how people found this style quick and crappy, I liked it and it was a nice change to laugh during a serial killer flick. Wook-Suk Kang directed the sequel and the 2003 flick Silmido and so far what I’ve seen, I’ve liked. The one thing that really pissed me off was the generic music score in this film that almost sounded like another version of what is now known as the “Pulp Fiction theme.” Yeah and the hooded aspect of the killer was really cheesy in my opinion. Hmm, you’re wearing a raincoat during the day? That’s pretty interesting and I guess the slipping in shit really didn’t improve my already ruptured stomach from a night at the Bacon Barn. Was that montage where Cheol-jung was chasing down the killer down a bunch of places really necessary? Pretty funny though.

Cheol-jung is played masterfully by Kyung-gu Sol, and does the genre boys proud with his offbeat portrayal of the anti-hero cop. His part is basically the best of the film, he’s probably the funniest and captures the screen with his presence. His performance is basically all over the place like this film, at one point he’s calling everyone an idiot, but on the next he’s screaming into a telephone on how murder is wrong in a very serious way. His character abuses his job as other follow and try to understand his bizarre methods. Hell even the Internal Affairs guys who think this guy is a crook are laughing at his ways. To battle our anti-hero, we are given a character who is very much not the psychotic killer we have all been given to know. Sung-jae Lee plays the mostly calm killer who has a point to his killing although only a psycho who constantly craps himself and talks to frogs can see why this was justified. His manner is calm and collective to the point where he becomes cocky in his kills to taunt Cheol-jung into going berserk. The rest of the cast was pretty generic, I liked the police captain who was slapping everyone, pretty damn funny.

Basically this film was fun. I couldn’t find really anything that annoyed me in this film, sure we’ve seen the story before but the added flare to this was makes it a shining example when the Dirty Harry factor can be done correct and not be pissing away the same thing. I’d also suggest the sequel to anybody who likes this one, as it carries the same attitude with a political presence in mind as well. That’s about it, just see the flick and watch a good film in motion.

Plot : 3/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- The fight between Cheol-jung and Kyuhwan during the final scenes.

Buy this movie at  YesAsia – Public Enemy

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