Dir: Ryoo Seung-wan. S Korea. 2010. 119mins
With The Unjust (Budang-georae), his seventh feature, South Korean director Ryoo Seung-wan has hit the sweet spot between smart genre filmmaking and cutting social commentary. After winning over critics and taking in $18.7 million in its native Korea last fall, it is now scheduled to receive its international premiere in Berlin’s Panorama.
The Unjust succeeds in taking familiar observations about bureaucracy and corruption and lending them a new poignancy.
Working off another writer’s script for the first time, Ryoo has created a complex work that begins as a crime thriller, but soon leaves the crime behind to focus on the characters and the corrupt system they inhabit. It can reasonably expect continued festival exposure and better-than-average sales for an Asian genre film.
With the nation outraged over the slaying of several elementary school girls, an errant policeman kills the prime suspect before any hard evidence is secured. Feeling pressure from the president himself, the police superintendent turns to Captain Choi Cheol-gi (Hwang) and urges him to wrap up the case quickly.
Helped by a gangster-turned-businessman Jang (Yoo Hae-jin in a great supporting role), Choi arranges for an “actor” to be found and charged with the crime. However this action unwittingly sets off a chain of events affecting an ambitious public prosecutor (Ryoo), who receives backing from a powerful rival of Jang’s. Soon, the police captain and the public prosecutor become locked in a bitter conflict.
Particularly impressive is the performance turned in by the director’s star younger brother Ryoo Seung-bum, who expresses both the smug sense of entitlement and the paranoia felt by a high ranking bureaucrat set on advancement. Fast-paced and skilfully edited together, The Unjust succeeds in taking familiar observations about bureaucracy and corruption and lending them a new poignancy.
Production companies: Film Train, Filmmaker R & K
International sales: CJ Entertainment, www.cjent.co.kr/eng
Producers: Han Jae-deok, Yeo Mi-jeong
Executive producers: Gu Bon-han, Kim Yun-ho, Gang Hye-jung, Ryoo Seung-wan
Cinematography: Jeong Jeong-hun
Production designer: Choi Ji-yeon
Editor: Kim Jae-beom, Kim Sang-beom
Music: Jo Young-wook
Main cast: Hwang Jung-min, Ryoo Seung-bum, Yoo Hae-jin, Chun Ho-jin, Ma Dong-seok, Jo Yeong-jin, Lee Seong-min