The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil
Ma Dong-seok, Kim Mu-yeol, Kim Sung-kyu
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…an exploration of criminal ethics while also being an enjoyable, bloody frenzy.
The undercover-cop-and-gangster dynamic gets turned on its head in the gritty Korean crime-thriller The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil.
A slew of murders in the South Korean city of Cheonan forms an unlikely partnership between a cop and gangster-crime lord, brought together by a shared desire to nab a perp whose actions are as violent as they are random.
While operating with a sense of non-disclosure to their organisations, the cop and gangster pairing are not undercover in the conventional informant sense a la The Departed. That would be banal. Their arrangement is strictly ends-orientated, with whoever can catch the assailant left to enact justice as they see fit. Just exactly how they execute “justice” differs between the two men with The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil offering an exploration of criminal ethics while also being an enjoyable, bloody frenzy.
While not precisely When Harry Met Sally, there is something fundamentally romantic about the idea of cop and gangster working together and having the two men – hardened by their professional career – developing a respectful relationship founded on compromise. Their differences are fewer than you imagine, with the two leads delivering a chemistry that would have you believe that in another life the two would be laughing up a storm and swinging down soju in a bar until the wee hours of the morning.
Their moral conduct is their clearest divider, with the two men operating with a stern forcefulness that prevents them from swaying from the direction set by their moral compasses. The cop (Kim Mu-yeol), tough as nails and unable to let bad things happen in front of him even if it means being late to a crime scene, is complemented wondrously by the gangster crime-boss (Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee), an imposing figure who could easily save money on security by doing the job himself.
The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil switches gear into action scenes quite spontaneously, with a warning for those who are squeamish to prepare themselves. Where delivering a shoot-em-up would be taking the easy route, Director Lee Won-tae focuses the action in TGTCTD on hand-to-hand or knife-to-pokie-machine (!) combat to elicit tension. This decision works a treat in highlighting the actors’ athleticism and delivers solid, albeit stabby, choreography.