What You’ll Like:
- Some great performances
- Slick presentation and directorial work
- A welcome change to the action shoot-em-up Asian crime genre
What You May Not:
- Significantly less action scenes may turn off many Asian action fanatics
- Some story details feel lost in translation
- Goes on a bit too long
What You’ll Remember:
- How to knife fight in an enclosed elevator of about 6 people
From Korean film director Hoon-jung Park, director of thrillers such as I Saw the Devil and The UnJust, comes a film that sways a bit out of his accustomed pace, the crime gangster action drama New World; and just as always, the film comes to us undubbed in only a Korean spoken language track with English subtitles. A significant plus for the dedicated film purist. With a mostly satisfying, if not always genuinely thrilling, take on the world of the Asian crime syndicate, World provides us with a heap of a story, some slickly presented characters and direction, action on a technically serious-toned level, and a cast who do share a mutual passion for their work.
World tells the story of a high-profile crime syndicate named Goldmoon, and upon a freak car accident their leader is killed, leaving an entire congregation of henchmen and high-stakes criminals to nominate and inaugurate someone within the faction to take the reigns. While there is a somewhat established ladder of hierarchy, the top picks all expectedly have their eyes on the empty throne, one of which happens to be undercover detective Ja-seong, played by first-time actor Lee Jeong-jae, who puts on an impressive performance filled with complete unbridled passion, playing the role with a refreshingly serious dedication. Detective Ja-seong has been part of an intricate deep-cover operation, code-named New World, and after an 8-year dedicated placement, he is not only ready to call it quits, but also must see to his wife who is expecting their first child. Now Ja-seong’s position is torn between meeting his family expectations as well as appeasing his lead detective chief Kang, played by Min-sik Choi, to whom he tends to have bumped heads with more and more as the years have gone on. As a whole, this quick summation is as much story the average viewer really needs to know to appreciate the basics of the film’s intentions; although finer details regarding several Goldmoon higher-ups exist, as well as the relationship intricacies of a few protagonists, we unfortunately end up with some elements of the language translations feeling too fast or rushed, resulting in some minor twists not grasping audience attention as much as may have been intended to. Of course, any fluent Korean speakers may perhaps not have a problem at all, but to many of us State side, we’ll just have to deal with the non-English track. Despite this complaint, the two main leads, Ja-seong and his best friend Jeong (try not to confuse the names), played as the comic relief and unabashed part of the duo by actor Jeong-min Hwang, are the two in which World focuses most of its characterizing attention. At first, we come to learn that while Jeong and detective Ja-seong are friends, Jeong is a legit part of the cartel, whereas Ja-seong is obviously not, yet throughout the film there tends to be lack of chemistry between the two mostly because the tonality of things which doesn’t hold much leeway in terms of emotional expression, not actually until one emotional scene between the two towards the very end of the film.
As you’d expect, there are other characters here who are vying for the top spot, the main being who I BELIEVE is named Sin-woo, a very slick and overconfident smooth playboy type who isn’t an actual playboy. He is someone who has come into conflicting situations with the police chief on previous occasions. He, just like the actor portraying the main detective, are easily the show stoppers here, with Sin-woo coming out on top easy; the two actors have a clear passion for the film and are extremely likeable despite strangely enough not really coming off as the types you’d ever care to be friends with.
What may detract many hardcore Asian cinema viewers here is the extreme lack of action; being a grand story on the inner workings of each character’s intentions, plans, motivations, and fundamental care to now make waves wherever such conflicts are simply not necessary and mostly avoided, the true testosterone-injected moments do not come until the end of the film, where we have many henchmen facing off in a grand battle inside a parking garage, as well as Jeong getting into World‘s most unique fight – that of Jeong facing off against five or six henchmen inside that of a small cramped elevator, to which each is armed with a large combat knife. This would easily be the film’s all too brief highlight. Things end rather surprisingly, as the question becomes answered as to what ends up happening to that coveted Goldmoon leader’s throne, and thus implying a deep character study that may lead many to give the film another viewing.
Director Hoon-jung Park grants us a basic directorial style, interested primarily in the story he’s trying to tell and the way it is being conveyed may not actually be for every viewer, particularly those looking for a non-stop barrage of blood and guns. Yet even within the generalities of his style, there do come some very unique directorial moments in terms of establishing shots almost featuring the surroundings as a character all their own. Besides these, it is the story that keeps the viewer focused, showing us that character development, a steady pace, intricately detailed acting, and a no-frills tone can do much to make a good viewing just as much as any blasting firefight barrage can, even though the lack of excitement tends to unfortunately come from the lost details of dialect from the translation to subtitles. It will engulf those looking for a good change of pace, even if for everyone the duration may have done well to have been cut by at least 10 minutes. In the end, New World is a worthy film with unnerving and appreciated dedication in its artform, that may not fit every bill in the American household. I’d say a strong 2 out of 4, with the recommendation for drama fans over action fanatics. A Chow-Yun Fat film this is definitely not.
Not much, we have a behind-the-scenes look lasting about 6 minutes, featuring a collection of documentary-style footage taken on a handheld camera showing us some backstage amusement by the cast, as well as a few of the scenes being shot, but no interviews of such sort. Afterwards there is a photo slide-show gallery set to some music from the film, lastly leading off to a trailer, which is a good effort in speaking of trailers. Due to an obvious constrained budget, a more detailed and entertaining set of extras perhaps were just not possible.
Graphics and Sound:
There’s no other way to put it, New World is an absolutely and astoundingly gorgeous and pleasing blu-ray transfer to look at. Despite coming off as cheap in its box art and foreign appeal, the HD detail in the film is easily one of the greatest looking blu-ray films yours grinch truly has ever had to pleasure of viewing. The colors are beautifully vivid, but never oversaturated, and for about 99% of the film, it remains constant, given one very short scene with Jeong in a car where some distortion pops us, yet surprisingly enough, after that short scene things go back to normal and stay that way for the remaining duration. Black are wonderfully deep, and there is virtually zero distortion anywhere otherwise, even at all TV picture settings, therefore it is definitely encouraged to put the TV settings on the most vivid picture possible. Now with the sound side of things, World is a relatively quiet film for the most part, but one where the dialogue, though in Korean, is at a perfect tone – good volume, and a balance of bass and treble, never coming off too scratchy or muffled in the least. Action scenes are well balanced and there never comes a moment where any important or even unimportant details are inaudible. As a whole, the sound and picture quality of New World is no less than pristine.