New World (2013)
Review by Jude Felton
It really is hard to emphasize just how impressive the cinematic output from Korea has been over the last few years. It seems that every year at least one film comes along that shatters the conventions of its particular genre, especially the thriller. I could go on and list a ton of films that you need to see, but chances are that you’ve already caught many of them. Well, get ready to add New World to that list. On the surface it’s just another gangster/cop flick, but there is so much more to it; this movie pulls no punches and is absolutely stunning.
If I told you that New World was written and directed by Hoon-jung Park, it might not mean that much to you, with him only having directed one film previously. However, if I tell you that he wrote the screenplay for I Saw the Devil, I think this might have you salivating. That will was incredible, and although New World is gangster versus cops, rather than a serial killer against cops, it is still an absolutely riveting watch.
The head of the Goldmoon crime syndicate is dead, and as with any other business they need to find someone to take over. There are two main candidates; the cold and calculating Jeong Cheong and the calmer Ja-Seong. The main difference between the two is that Ja-Seong is actually an undercover cop; very undercover, with only a couple of people aware of this.
Throw into this mix, Section Chief Kang (the ever impressive Min-sik Choi), who is making life as difficult as he can for the Goldmoon corporation, and you have all the makings of a very tense thriller. Of course, there is a lot more going on than I am willing to share with you, and I don’t share it as this is the sort of film the rewards the unsuspecting view, in terms of the direction the story takes in places.
New World is a very slick and calculating thriller, and at almost 2 ½ hours there is plenty of dialogue to move the film along. This is, however, interspersed with scenes of incredible violence. What Park has achieved though is quite clever; you as the viewer are under no illusion as to what is happening, even though the violence happens just off screen. Don’t be fooled though, as this is brutal stuff.
The plot keeps you guessing throughout, and the combination of great writing, skilled direction and terrific performances from the three leads, all add up to one hell of an impressive movie. New World is very much a man’s movie though, with their only being two principle female characters; both of whom have a fairly rough time, even though they are integral to the plot.
This was truly a fascinating film to watch, as the power struggles and moral dilemmas ease the film to and fro, whilst never over complicating the events. New World is intense, exciting and at times hard to watch, due to the brutal violence, but at its heart it is a wonderful character piece that fully holds your attention from start to finish.
New World is released theatrically by Well Go USA and you can check theater listings here.