Story: The boss of Goldmoon company dies in a car crash. Since there is actually hiding a giant
gangster organisation behind the company there is soon dispute about who is to become the next boss. The two friends
Ja-seong (Lee Jeong-jae) and Jeong Cheong (Hwang Jeong-min) are standing pretty high on the ladder, but in all
probability Joong-goo (Park Seong-woong), who at every available opportunity is fueling his rivalry with Jeong,
is about to win the race. The police is fully informed about the ongoings in the organisation as the leading detective
Kang (Choi Min-sik) has planted a mole eight years ago: Ja-seong. Latter one gets constantly reminded which side he is
standing on and although he already accomplished his original mission he still has to remain part of the gangster organisation.
That is because Kang has forged a plan how to bring the organisation under control of the police. When Ja-seon delivers
enough evidence to bring Joong-goo behind bars, Kang contacts the friend of the mole and hints at another mole
still hiding within the organisation. Kang plays for high stakes, especially gambling with Ja-seong's life...
Review: Korean gangster organisation films have been brought to screen over and over in a more or less successful manner, but only seldomly they
can really be called serious efforts. However, "New World" without a doubt counts among the model works of the genre. If nothing else this certainly
can be attributed to some epic traits the film gains, and an ensemble cast that underlines the movie's strenghts. In the end, it may still be surprising
how much of the story is taken out of the book of well-known genre entries, but the visually impressive pictures, a tense atmosphere and a suspense level that is
constantly stepped up a notch in a well achieved manner clearly manage to satisfy. The big ambitions that "New World" has, they are visible in almost any frame,
couldn't be fully realized, though.
Director Park Hoon-jeong has already been the scriptwriter for "I Saw the Devil" and despite a low budget he could also
deliver a cinematically convincing debut work with "The Showdown". Since he says of himself to be a big fan of "The Godfather"
it shouldn't surprise that there are also some parallels to be found here. But that isn't the only film he takes elements from to work with. "New World" appears
to be a mix of "Infernal Affairs" and "Election, too. With latter one he also shares the dark
tone and one of its biggest flaws: There isn't a single person that can arouse our sympathy. Everyone in this world full of betrayal, lust for power, and
deceitfulness has characters traits that are loathe-worthy. This especially includes the police as well.
At first it's still possible to have sympathy for Ja-seong. He wants to quit for years already, but he isn't allowed to. Nevertheless, it becomes more and
more difficult to cheer for him as he, in order not to blow his cover, has to do things which have made it hard for him to live with himself for a while already.
The audience can't remain on his side for long either. But then, which side is left? Choi Min-sik ("Nameless Gangster",
"Oldboy") plays the detective, yet he is everything but one of the good guys. Because of what he burdens Ja-seong, played by
Lee Jeong-jae ("The Housemaid", "Typhoon"), with we soon can only feel hatred towards him, even
if he might be afflicted by pricks of conscience. Choi surely delivers a nice performance, as does Lee, but the actual star is someone else.
Hwang Jeong-min ("Moby Dick", "Black House") is stealing the show from everbody else. He is rather extroverted, very colorful, yet manages to bestow certain nuances on his character with which he can win over the viewer, and this even though he is the most cruel among the gangsters. "New World" is often pretty bloody, including a wild knife stabbing in an elevator. The adrenaline is brought to a peak during those scenes in which Ja-seong, always remaining a toy of both sides, needs to fear that his cover has been blown, though. The story itself isn't anything new, some scenes even seem to be outright taken from the already mentioned gangster thrillers, still, what "New World" does successfully achieve is being the first Korean movie that blends the gruesomeness involved in an individual's rise within a gangster organisation and a cat-and-mouse game wrapped in a dark, almost epic framework.
Blue color filters, pompous sets, run-down places that serve as secret meeting places - the pictures in "New World" speak a language that is instantly convincing. Furthermore, the movie is fortunate to feature a great cast. Stylistically there is nothing to criticize, the atmosphere is just right, there is suspense erupting from the second half onward, although there isn't any real action, maybe a chaotic brawl put aside, and yet the movie is just too cold. Less epic Korea gangster movies like "A Dirty Carnival" are therefore more appealing but that in no way is supposed to make "New World" a worse movie than it is. Actually, it is even one of the best Korean gangster movies of the last few years. It's just that director Park still has some untapped potential.