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A Violent Prosecutor - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2015

Crime, Comedy

Lee Il-hyeong

Hwang Jeong-min
Kang Dong-won
Lee Sung-min
Park Seong-woong
Kim Eung-soo
Shin So-yul
Park Jong-hwan
Han Jae-yeong
Joo Jin-mo

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A Violent Prosecutor

A Violent Prosecutor - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Byeon Jae-wook (Hwang Jeong-min) is an excellent prosecutor, but unfortunately he is notorious for being hot-tempered. When one morning he enters an interrogation room with a suspect, who has mingled with a few protesters and attacked the police in order to give the people protesting against planned constructions a bad reputation by order of a construction company, Jae-wook finds the suspect dead. Soon, the death of the suspect is ruled to be the result of the injuries he suffered by the hand of the prosecutor. Jae-wook is sentenced to fifteen years in prison because he pleaded guilty like his lawyer advised him to do. It turns out that his lawyer is apparently in cahoots with the real perpetrators and the whole case seems to be connected to the construction company and Woo Jong-gil (Lee Sung-min). Now, Jae-wook sits in prison where he has earned the favor of the guards as well as the other inmates because of the advice he gives them concerning legal questions. At the same time he tries to get to the bottom of the case. What keeps him awake at night is that the inhaler of the deceased hasn't been found at the crime scene. When conman Han Chi-won (Kang Dong-won) is sent to the same prison five years after his arrest, Jae-wook sees a chance to prove his innocence with the young man's help.

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A Violent Prosecutor - Film Screenshot 4

Review: There isn't much to see in "A Violent Prosecutor" that we haven't already been served with in a similar form somewhere else. At best, it's the mixture of different elements that can keep us interested at times. Overall, the movie feels too familiar to be a convincing affair, though. At least you can't do anything wrong with the actors in the picture and accordingly it's in fact them who can keep the story going. That is because the developments of the story itself only manage to make us yawn. Wanting to be a comedy the film lacks genuinely funny moments as well. The chemistry between the two leads also leaves a lot to be desired which is simply because their characters are seldomly to be seen on screen at the same time. In a way, the story shot itself in the foot because of this and gave away a potential strong point.

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The flair of this thriller-comedy strongly reminds us of that of a heist movie. The upbeat soundtrack also leaves no doubt about that. But instead of a bank robbery or some sort of fraud that aims at stealing a big amount of money Chi-won's skillset is used to prove the innocence of Jae-wook. As soon as this foundation for the story is set there is not a single surprise left. You can easily guess the rest of the plot and even the mandatory courtroom scene towards the end is predictable. Unfortunately, this doesn't change the fact that the scene barely fits into the movie's overall tone. But what exactly the distinctive tone of "A Violent Prosecutor" is supposed to be is hard to tell. For a comedy the flick lacks real laughs and too often there are slightly gritty scenes featured that seem to be taken right out of a gangster thriller.

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It also doesn't help that the two driving forces of the film, Hwang Jeong-min ("Veteran", "Ode to My Father") and Kang Dong-won ("The Priests", "My Brilliant Life"), are only to be seen in jail together for a short time. After that they go seperate ways. Hwang even disappears completely from the screen for a while. Consequently, there is no buddy movie feeling, which clearly was intended, though. Still, apart from that the two deliver a nice performance and also have the kind of charisma to carry the movie over its weaker moments so that there is never real boredom setting in, although the screenplay doesn't do anything to avoid it. Anyway, the presence of Hwang and Kang were enough to make the film a success at the Korean box office.

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A nice bonus is Park Seong-woong ("For the Emperor", "Tabloid Truth"), who shows some reserved, but still intense screen presence. However, direcor Lee Il-hyeong actually is in strong need of good actors in his debut work since the rest of his movie is seldomly convincing. The story develops in a very straightforward way and there are no surprises. Who is good and who is evil is clarified in the very beginning, the conspiracy is obvious and so the only thing left is to bring to justice the evildoers with Jae-wook's lawyer skills and Chi-won's talents as a professional conman. Lee approaches his film so uninspiredly that he even makes a ridiculous attempt at throwing some obstacles in Jae-wook's path only to completely ignore his attempt shortly afterwards! It's those moments that make you scratch your head.

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Moreover, "A Violent Prosecutor" isn't a movie that forces you to use your grey matter. At one point, at which we get a flashback so that even viewers suffering from Alzheimer's are reminded of what connection they are supposed to make, we even feel offended in our intellegence. Next to a meager story the movie also misses on delivering some action scenes. Even when the gangsters have the upper hand and things get quite dark for a moment there is no real tension created. The movie's outcome is simply set to stone from the very get-go. The only things responsible for a good pacing are the lively dialogue, the planning of the individual steps in the case and the characters' energy. "A Violent Prosecutor" won't be remembered for long. If it weren't for the somewhat interesting personalities I would have to rate the movie even lower. The way it is, there is at least some shallow entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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