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Inside Men - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2015


Woo Min-ho

Lee Byung-hun
Jo Seung-woo
Baek Yoon-sik
Lee Kyeong-yeong
Kim Hong-pa
Bae Seong-woo
Lee El
Kim Dae-myeong
Jo Jae-yoon

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Inside Men

Inside Men - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Ahn Sang-goo (Lee Byung-hun) is a former gangster who turns to the media and reveals slush funds which have been founded by Hanyul Bank and Mirae Motors in order to finance the presidential candidacy of Jang Pil-woo (Lee Kyeong-yeong). Two years ago, Woo Jang-hoon (Jo Seung-woo), a capable prosecutor, who lacks ties to influential people, though, and thus hardly attracts attention by anyone, almost managed to get enough evidence about the funds in his hands. But Ahn intercepted his source and handed over the evidence to editor Lee Kang-hee (Baek Yoon-sik). Lee may be a patron to gangster Ahn, but his ties to Jang and the president of Mirae Motors are even stronger. Accordingly, Ahn is kidnapped by Jang's men and his right hand is sawed off. After that he is brought to a sanatorium, where he is supposed to be no danger to anyone anymore. But then one day the sanatorium needs to close its doors for good and Ahn can finally plan his revenge. Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan. Things are complicated even more by prosecutor Woo, who also wants to uncover the scandal around the funds and makes Ahn a target of his investigation.

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Review: Since "Inside Men" had quite some success with audiences people wanted to get the original 3-hours-version of this film. As the director's cut version always reflects the vision a director actually had in the beginning this review naturally needed to prioritize the longer version before the 130-minutes theatrical cut. If this actually is the better version of the two is doubtful, even though I can't really draw a direct comparison. The reason for that being that "Inside Men" simply feels too long and features some scenes which easily could have been cut out of the movie without the picture lacking anything because of it. This put aside the actors and some twists in fact manage to win you over, even though latter ones turn out to be rather storytypical.

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These days it seems to be in vogue in Korea to shoot political thrillers around the omnipotence of chaebols (powerful family companies) with their far-reaching connections. At least in the 180-minutes-version it turns out that it's not really that difficult to follow the initial entanglements and countless names thrown at you. There are enough hints, and at least in this respect the movie is well structured. By the way, the story is actually based on a web comic by Yoon Tae-ho, who is also responsible for the source material of "Moss". But the film should have been told with a tighter structure. Maybe, or even most likely, the theatrical cut has fewer problems here. Among a director's tasks is to be able to abstract what's important for the story he wants to convey and what's not. Here, clear deficits are coming to light.

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It's also quite easy to pinpoint which of the scenes have newly found their way into the movie, although I might be mistaken, of course. But it seems it's especially those that shed some more light on the relationships between the characters. However, it also turns out that many of those scenes don't truely add to getting some more insight into the individuals. Moreover, when it comes to a movie about political intrigues you would expect that a running time of three hours would bestow something great and epic upon the story. That's not the case either, though. It's more that director Woo Min-ho ("Spy", "Man of Vendetta") lacks focus in the longer version of the movie, and hopefully just in this one. The ending, which in fact doesn't know when to end, attests to this impression.

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The story is enriched by numerous twists and betrayal at every corner. Still, the flick does approach things quite predictable in this regard. This especially concerns the finale, which reminds us of similar recent Korean movies like "The Advocate: A Missing Body" and thus can't be truely surprising. What's refreshing, though, next to the political intrigues, are the small gangster sequences taken right out of a gangster thriller. But the film doesn't feel really coherent because of that. This is particularly the fault of the editing, which isn't that great, and an ending which brings something trivial to the chemistry between the two protagonists, as well as the introduction, which apparently was supposed to serve as some sort of framework to the rest of the story, but in the end just gets dropped. It really wouldn't have hurt "Inside Men", if some unneeded scenes hadn't been added.

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As alreay stated, the story also isn't as smart as it wants to present itself. We don't get to see anything new here and the betrayal of friends can often be easily anticipated. Actingwise, Lee Byung-hun ("Masquerade") as a gangster, whose not that badly devised plans simply never work out, and Baek Yoon-sik ("The Taste of Money") as a newspaper editor with a not necessarily that credible amount of power in his hands for a man in his position convince particularly well. Jo Seung-woo ("Love Phobia") doesn't do a bad job either, but it's more than anyone else Lee who manages to get the most out of his role as an anti-hero. At the end, "Inside Men" still lacks that special something and oftentimes the movie's criticism of the current problems in Korean society aren't conveyed with the necessary amount of subtlety. In principle not a bad movie, but too lengthy and without a really inventive story.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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