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South Korea 2017

Crime, Thriller, Drama

Kim Tae-yoon

Jung Woo
Kang Ha-neul
Kim Hae-sook
Lee Dong-hwi
Han Jae-yeong
Lee Kyeong-yeong

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New Trial

New Trial - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Hyun-woo (Kang Ha-neul) is a teenager who is causing trouble from time to time, but in his core he is a good guy. One day, he has to avoid hitting a passerby on a junction and he falls off his motorbike. The accident perpetrator disappears, but Hyun-woo discovres a body in a taxi standing on the junction. He calls the police and they start their investigation under the lead of detective Baek (Han Jae-yeong). Since the murder case would be the easiest to solve for Baek if Hyun-woo were the culprit, and since there is even a knife found with him, although it doesn't fit the stab wounds found on the victim, the detective tortures a confession out of the innocent teenager. Hyun-woo has to go to jail for the murder. 14 years later he is free again, but he has to pay the victim compensation and because of interest the amount to be paid has grown into a horrendous sum. Hyun-woo's mother (Kim Hae-sook) wants to involve a lawyer. Lee Joon-yeong (Jung Woo) gets the case. He works on probation for an established law office, after he has lost an important case and his job. The office wants to take the case pro bono in order to generate some good publicity and for Joon-yeong it would be a great chance to get a good job. But the lawyer has to fight a corrupt police force and politicians...

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New Trial - Film Screenshot 4

Review: At first sight, "New Trial" is a detective story of the likes that have been coming out of Korea in great numbers. Of course, there is "The Attorney", but also "The Advocate: A Missing Body" which also center around a system of justice failing and corruption or ideology at random making the people or part of it culprits. The interesting thing about this adaption of a true case is in fact that we all in all spend only a couple of minutes in a courtroom. Conversations in front of the judge dragging on forever including lofty speeches is something we are thus thankfully spared of. Instead, the film's focus lies more on the characters and they are also illuminated quite well. Next to that the picture may come across as rather standard, but it remains well told.

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The world is full of lawyers, who hold money dearer to their heart than justice, be it in Korea for example or any other country. There is only a difference in how good democracy (if this is the prevailing system at all) and justice are protected by free media and a few rare honest individuals. Therefore, it doesn't come as a surprise, that with Joon-yeong we get a lawyer who right from the get-go informs us what his goals are. His honesty to be only interested in money is astonishing, not necessarily the matter itself, though. So how are we supposed to warm to such a character. Well, we aren't. At least not until the story has progressed quite a bit. Because as not to be expected otherwise there are also a few good sides shining through our hero, eventually. In this regard "New Trial" doesn't differ from similar works.

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It's more a surprise, that the supposed good characters turn out to be the actual villains. After all, it's them who can easily make others believe that they are acting unselfishly. Joon-yeong doesn't fit into this picture, he doesn't have the pepsodent smile for the media. In fact, Jung Woo ("Red Family") even gives something underhanded to his role because of his looks. Kang Ha-neul ("Mourning Grave") on the other hand embodies a young man who is frustrated by the world and would like nothing more than to be just left alone, that is until he sees a shimmer of hope. Naturally, it takes a while until the ice is broken between lawyer and client, but the chemistry between the two is just right, even though or just because there are a few stumbling blocks they need to put behind them.

New Trial - Film Screenshot 7

Most of the time evidence and witnesses are to be uncovered. This turns out to be not that easy at all since the obvious villain of the story, but not the most powerful, in the shape of a detective played by Han Jae-yeong ("Gangnam Blues"), tramples on justice. Even though there would have been the potential for a few action scenes there are none to be found in "New Trial" and that's a good thing, too. This way director Kim Tae-yoon can focus more on the characters' elaboration. Kim Tae-yoon had already shot an investigative story around leucemia cases among Samsung employees called "Another Family", but this time his picture is clearly tailored to a broader audience and therefore has done well at the box office.

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There is constant use of flashbacks with the intent of conveying events of the past or even just possible versions of it. With Hyun-woo's mother the flick also gets a bit of drama, but certainly not that much for "New Trial" to degenrate into a tearjerker. Sadly, that's not a given these days. One of the film's greatest efforts is that the ending actually remains open and yet brings things to a satisfying finish. Also thanks to some text which at the end tells us about how the real case eventually ended. And that was at the end of 2016. Thus, the movie is extremely up-to-date. "New Trial" doesn't reinvent the wheel, but smartly enough focuses on the really interestingly written individuals and almost completely steers clear off the courtroom. The end result is a convincing investigative drama which never gets tedious.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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