Story: Jang Se-chool (Kim Rae-won) is a gangster boss, even though he is a comparatively nice one. When he is instructed to chase away some demonstrators from a construction site where a new multi-story building is supposed to be built, little does he know that his life is about to change completely. On the construction site he meets the lawyer Kang So-hyeon (Won Jin-ah) and immediately falls in love with her. Different than originally planned, he doesn't disperse the demonstration and So-hyeon, who has absolutely no interest in the gangster, gives him the advice to become a nice person. Subsequently, Se-chool now wants to sell his night club and looks for a way to change his life. Somebody tells him to go find Hwang Bo-yoon (Choi Moo-sung), who used to be a gangster back in the day as well and now does a lot for the community in Mokpo. In the meantime, the citizens urge Bo-yoon into running against Choi Man-soo (Choi Gwi-hwa) for the upcoming election. Choi wants to be re-elected and forces the citizens of Mokpo out of their houses to attract more tourists with a theme park. Because Hwang is very popular, Choi has a big problem and employs the gangster Gwang-choon (Jin Seon-kyu) to eliminate his rival. Meanwhile, Se-chool becomes some kind of hero for the city when he saves a bus driver's life during an accident. When Hwang gets injured and can't run for election anymore, he passes his office on to Se-chool. The latter now finds himself confronted with the world of politics, which is by far messier than a gangster's life...
Review: It seems obvious that a comedy about a gangster who goes into politics has to be a political satire. However, despite taking some digs at the world of politics, "Long Live the King" is a classic comedy. The setting is certainly refreshing, even if there are already various movies about politicians who have gangsters as their opponents ("Sunflower", to name just one), this time the focus is clearly on the humor. The lighthearted approach to the topic does actually not leave any room for seriously bad gangsters anyway, at least, that's how it seems at first. But this changes during the second half of the movie. Now, there is actually something at stake and there is even some blood. That wouldn't necessarily pose a problem, especially since the humor may clearly take a backseat without vanishing completely, though, but the main focus changes too much from Se-chool's efforts to become a better person to a classic showdown.
Worth mentioning is the fact that the movie easily could have been turned into a simple romcom, but wasn't. After all, Se-chool wants to change his life completely because he fell in love with a woman who tells him to become a better person. But the love story is simply used as a source of motivation for the hero and never takes up more room than necessary. However, you cannot see a real change in Se-chool. Of course, he gets more anxious to help his fellow men, but when it comes to his subordinates we suddenly realize that even in the past he had already surrounded himself with good-hearted people, and later on, we actually get to know that he has always had some kind of "Robin Hood tendencies". If this piece of information was supposed to be surprising, that didn't work, because apart from some fights that our hero gets into, it is completely obvious that he became a gangster in the past purely by chance and would never do anything ruthless to achieve his goals.
Kim Rae-won ("The Prison") is exactly the right guy for the role. He is obviously having fun and has a certain kind of charm which makes is easy to see him both as a gangster and a clumsy politician. Won Jin-ah ("Money"), on the other hand, doesn't get the opportunity to do that much with her character. She is just a love interest, and even though she seems to have a complex character as a strong lawyer, we don't get to see much of that. Instead, she even comes across as emotionally cold, and you could easily forget that she is the reason for our gangster to turn his life upside down. With the politician as the villain we get somebody who is all about the money and doesn't care about the people - also not that original. It is funny when Se-chool's subordinates tell him to keep his hands off of politics because it is a dirty game and gangsters have no chance in keeping up with the level of inhumanity which is necessary to win it. Still, this is nothing new and the movie should instead have woven in some more satirical moments for it to work.
Therefore, you sadly do not get to see a comparison of the world of politicians and gangsters and how much they are alike. At best, this is touched upon at the sidelines. This is why you have to ask yourself what director Kang Yoon-Sung actually wanted to accomplish with this movie. Of course, not every movie has to convey a message, but with all the campaigning, which makes up the main part of the movie's second half, you at least expect more than a simple easy-going comedy. Moreover, the pacing doesn't seem right. It takes quite some time until Se-chool has the opportunity to actually ask his mentor to get him back on the straight and narrow and after that, the events suddenly come thick and fast. The gangster becomes the city's hero because of a much too favorable accidental circumstance and the flick turns into some kind of gangster movie, including a change in tone to a more darker atmosphere.
Director Kang Yoon-Sung showed us with his surprise hit "The Outlaws" that he feels pretty comfortable in the gangster milieu featuring a touch of comedy. Maybe that's why he couldn't help it and once more relied on thriller aspects during this movie's finale. But it just doesn't fit here. The fact that Kang probably realized this at some point can be seen by his attempt to turn the corner and give everything a more humorous touch. In keeping to the motto: Even if it was a life and death situation, don't take things too seriously - wink, wink. That's a cheap move and leaves the audience with a lot of questions. Nevertheless, "Long Live the King" is still without a doubt an entertaining movie and when it comes to technical aspects it is pretty flawless, too. Only the script would have needed a little revising so that the movie's intention could have become clearer and the comedy would have run a little bit smoother.