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The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Na-bbeun nyeo-seok-deul: deo mu-bi

South Korea 2019

Action, Crime, Comedy

Son Yong-ho

Ma Dong-seok
Jang Ki-yong
Kim Ah-joong
Kim Sang-joong
Park Hyo-joon
Kim In-woo

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The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Park Woong-cheol (Ma Dong-seok) has to serve time in prison for 28 years after he took the blame for a friend. He is a highly esteemed and feared gangster, though, so he has his peace there. At least, till the sultry new inmate Ko Yoo-sung (Jang Ki-yong) - a former policeman - appears on the scene. But the gangster soon puts him in his place. During an inmate transportation, which Yoo-sung and the conwoman Kwak No-soon (Kim Ah-joong) are also part of, several policemen are killed and a former gangster boss is freed, who wanted to testify against the real leader behind his organization. Oh Goo-tak (Kim Sang-joong), the former boss of an unusual special force unit, is rehired to capture the gangster boss and the rest of the escapees. For that, Oh puts together a team of inmates because the unit is allowed to bend the law a little bit more than the police. Gangster Woong-cheol and the former policeman Yoo-sung become part of the team and are promised a reduction of their prison sentence if they are successful. Together, they soon manage to capture the conwoman No-soon, who offers to become part of the team herself, and she in fact has useful information which helps the team to close in on the escaped prisoners. However, Woong-ceol still has a score to settle with the gangster boss. And it turns out that the men who freed the gangster boss are more powerful than the special unit originally thought...

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Review: Right at the beginning the tagline "The Movie" in the title makes us aware of the fact that we are dealing with the continuation of a TV show here. Also, some of the background suggests that there is more to this world than we get to see here. In fact, the movie continues the series "Bad Guys", in which Ma Dong-Seok and Kim Sang-joong played the lead as well. But don't worry, it's absolutely not necessary to have seen the show in order to understand what is going on here. Of course, the premise is fascinating, because two groups of villains competing with one another seems promising and should guarantee characters with facets. However, the protagonists actually turn out rather good-hearted and charismatic and simply made a bad career choice. That's not the only thing that is pretty disappointing about the movie. However, "The Bad Guys" scores with brilliant action scenes and a great pacing.

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Nevertheless, the movie's start is a little bit bumpy. The introduction makes us realize that the source material is actually a tv show. A few minutes later the gang is even presented to us in an homage to "Sin City" and you have to ask yourself why the director thought this would be a good idea. But the first action sequence makes you forget these sorts of clumsy things right away. The scene in which the gangster boss is freed is pretty spectacular and the pacing is always right. And quite quickly you also get a picture of the different groups and their moral compasses so that you know who to root for. Of course, the movie also works with the fact that the special force of crime busters cannot show each other a lot of love, and there is also only a limited amount of trust between the group members. However, that does not really create more suspense because it is pretty obvious that when push comes to shove, the group will stick together.

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There are also no surprises when it comes to the story. Except for maybe in one aspect, which actually even stands out rather negatively. The men behind the gangster boss turn out to be the Yakuza, who want to take over Korea with money. This reopens old wounds of colonialism and makes the movie a little bit too nationalistic. For an action thriller, which also provides quite a lot of humor, this seems rather inappropriate. Especially, because director Son Yong-ho ("The Deal") did not take enough time to deal with the topic in depth. Instead, we get the usual superficial social criticism in the sense of "Money rules the world, but more to the point, it rules Korea". That way, next to the downright evil Japanese, you at least get some Korean villains, too, for who money is the most important thing. Of course, there is also the mandatory traitor in the groups' inner circle who gets exposed at some point, but this doesn't come as a surprise. But the script of "The Bad Guys" is not supposed to be a crowd puller anyway.

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However, most of the fun is created by the action, despite the fact that the fights aren't even choreographed all that great. Ma Dong-seok ("The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil") fights his way through a horde of villains with a powerful right hook. Here and there we also get some wrestling moves. Nevertheless, the running gag is more the fact that Woong-cheol has an almost superhuman strength. He runs through steel doors or even takes them out of their hinges and is able to break a killer's backbone with a Bear Hug in one very satisfying scene. "The Bad Guys" has some clumsy moments, including the fact that the filmmakers boldly copy pieces from artists like "Rage Against the Machine" or "Linkin Park". But most of the time, the humor is charmingly awkward and pleasantly entertaining. Maybe that is because you can see quite clearly, that everybody involved didn't take him-/herself too seriously and simply wanted to have a little bit of fun with the movie.

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The characters are actually just archetypes like you have seen numerous times before. Kim Ah-joong ("The King") tries to wrap the men around her little finger with her sex appeal, but is allowed to prove that she can also handle herself in hand to hand combat and therefore represents a strong supporting role. Next to that, the rest of the cast is actually pushed into the background. It was a good decision not to write the movie around Ma Dong-Seok, whose celebrity potential apparently goes through the roof at the moment. "The Bad Guys" has its flaws. At times, it is beautifully unrealistic (in the showdown the heroes have to fight their way through a warehouse full of thugs) and quite often does not hit the mark. But the continuously fast pacing, the great action and the surprisingly well-done mixture of dark and bloody thriller elements and the lighthearted humor make the movie into something worth recommending for a nice evening of light entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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