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Original Title:

South Korea 2006

Action, Thriller

Kim Sung-su

Yu Ji-Tae
Kwon Sang-woo
Sohn Byung-ho
Uhm Ji-won
Yun Dong-geun

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Running Wild

Story: Prosecutor Oh Jin-woo (Yu Ji-Tae) is on the trail of the murderer of gangmember Park. He believes contract killer Cho to be the culprit, but his investigation leads him even deeper into the swamp of crime. Head of the local mafia Yoo Kang-jin (Sohn Byung-ho), who has just been released from prison, seems to be the one behind the doings.
Cop Jang Do-young (Kwon Sang-woo) prefers to fight with his fists than to consider logically. When his halfbrother, shortly after being released from prison himself, is killed by Yoo because he tried to press money from the mafia boss, Jang goes berserk. He tries to get at Yoo and his gang by using brutal force, but he has no success in doing so.
In the end Oh gets Jang, who meanwhile is somewhat out of control, in his team to get at Yoo with combined strength. However, the mafia boss gets more and more unimpeachable, since he starts to buy himself into politics.
The unlikely team Oh and Jang can achieve some small victories over the crime syndicate, yet Yoo still seems out of reach. Additionally, Yoo can even lead the two into a dangerous trap...

Review: "Running Wild" is a rough cop-thriller that you normally would expect out of Hong Kong. In the center of events stand recklessness and violence, especially the one of Jang, which eventually pull down the two main protagonists into a whirlpool of self destruction. This sounds quite interesting, yet the movie has to struggle with shallow characters and a lot of pacing problems.
In return some action scenes and particularly the ending can compensate for this. The only question is why one had to make an in its core simple story look so confusing.

The uneven couple Oh and Jang join forces to fight a common enemy.
Oh is a thoughtful person who needs concurrent evidence and who brings the cases he starts to work on to a close with his talent for logical analysis. In search of the killer Cho, he realizes that the case is much bigger than expected and thus he wants to bring down the head of the mafia. The reason isn't really plausible and his doggedness isn't either.

But let's not blame the script for Oh's strange behavior, because the worst is yet to come: Jang.
Seldomly one has seen a cop more stupid than he is. He is nothing more than a brainless rowdy. Jang beats up who and and whenever he can. Reason: He'll find one.
Doing so, he also faces legions of gang members several times, that beat the daylights out of him, naturally. One could assume that he might learn from these situations. No, not Jang. It doesn't take long and he deals with the same gang once again, yet he doesn't make use of his time to lie in ambush, call reinforcement or to get himself a tactical advantage in any other way. No, he prefers to face the gang on his own again! And of course he gets beaten up for another time... Why he wasn't killed by one of the mafia gang members in the end is another mystery. Sure, he is a cop and one would be heading for trouble killing him, but not everyone of the gang can be so cool and logical in his thinking as Yoo is.

"Running Wild" is a movie that was mainly made to widen the image of romance-Stars Yu Ji-Tae ("Ditto", "Oldboy") and Kwon Sang-woo ("My Tutor Friend"), who are idolized by femaly teeny-world, and to introduce them to a different audience. At least in this they succeeded. But at what cost?
Yu Ji-Tae plays the prosecuter Oh just too cold and reserved. Human qualities are nothing to be found here. Kwon on the other side plays Cop Jang, an aggressive and brawling idiot. It seems that the script writers did confuse passion with stupidity. So it's no surprise that we actually don't care about the fate of these two individuals.
Only towards the end the two can show that they are in fact pretty good actors, however, now it's already to late. There also isn't the typical buddy feeling you need for this kind of movie to work out.

Nevertheless, there seemed to be a regular flow of money into the movie, so it's well produced and delivers some nicely done action scenes. Kwon puts a lot of physical effort into his fighting scenes, but as always you shouldn't expect great choreography from the Koreans.
Technically and visually the movie puts up a great show. Only the regular use of split-screens and jump cuts are a little bit disturbing. Yet, there is one very well executed scene in which the camera swings out of a broken window of a skyscraper all the way down to the dead who just jumped out and returns back up to the top floor, where our protagonists are standing, and this all in one single shot.
Captured in a very dark and brutal-uncompromising way the end has to get some credit as we only would have expect something like this from Hong Kong filmmakers. Our heroes go down because of their own recklessness and at least concerning Kwon we didn't expect it to be any different.
However, the path to the very tense and worthwhile ending is paved with quite some lengths and a lot of struggling with the pacing. The movie could have been cut down from 124 minutes to 90 and it would have done it only good. A longer running time doesn't always mean a better movie.

"Running Wild" is about violence, recklessness and the corruptness of politicians. The script oftentimes gets lost in its own net of meaningless trifles and unnecessarily puffs up the story to more than it actually is. You can't sympathize with the characters and only towards the end the movie has our full attention. Until then you have to adhere to the action scenes for some fun.
The bottom line: Not a movie you have to see. If you like rough and ruthless Cop-Thriller then you will get more of your money's worth with a lot of Hong Kong productions. Nonetheless, if you are looking for an alternative (for whatever reasons) then "Running Wild" is your choice.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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