Goldmoon is one of the largest crime syndicates in Korea. It brought the Jaebum gang onto a national level and effectively brought together the Jeil and Northmoon gangs to become a serious power house for the crime community. When Goldmoon's chairman is killed in a car accident, his position suddenly becomes vacant and the race to fill it becomes a violent rat race. The two main candidates are the executive director and former head of Northmoon Jung Chung (Hwang Jung-min) and the managing director and Jaebum's #2 Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong). Chung's right hand man Lee Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) is actually an undercover cop with a baby on the way who's sick of being at the beck and call of Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik), who's been in charge of this operation ever since it started 8 years ago. Goldmoon could end up controlling everything due to their massive size and the authorities want to push them in the right direction. That is if the two sides fighting for control don't annihilate each other first. Thus a "New World" is upon us.
"New World" begins with bloody, horrific torture right at the start. A rat suspected of going to the feds about the actions of Jung Chung's gang is beaten to a crimson pulp, has what looks like wet cement poured down his throat, is shoved into a barrel, and dumped into the ocean. It's certainly a terrifying way to go, but also a hell of a way to start off a South Korean noir film.
The car accident that follows has shades of Ray Liotta's death in "Killing Them Softly," but it's mostly due to it being at a stoplight at night in the rain. Hwang Jung-min is a loose cannon. At first, Jung Chung seems like he's only interested in buying cheap knockoffs but his character gets more and more interesting the deeper Chief Kang digs. Park Sung-woong has one terrifying sequence as well as Lee Joong-gu threatens Jung Chung from behind a pane of glass.
Having only seen Lee Jung-jae in "The Thieves" previously it was interesting to see that his character in "New World" was so different in comparison. Lee Ja-sung is a nervous wreck. Chief Kang had promised to send him overseas to make more money when this assignment was over, but Kang keeps extending Ja-sung's duties despite claiming that "nothing has changed." Ja-sung is paranoid about being discovered as a cop and puts himself at risk the longer this mission drags on. Finally, there's Choi Min-sik who seems to have a lackadaisical attitude on purpose to irritate everyone around him. Chief Kang seems to flat out not care about anything other than this case. He always has this condescending tone while having what comes off as a love affair with the cigarettes he smokes. His best scenes are his "real gangster" speech to Lee Ja-sung and when Jung Chung tries to buy Kang off with a bribe. He also strokes the leaves of a plant at one point and it's pretty amusing.
Throughout "New World," Chief Kang is constantly being told to keep Lee Ja-sung "on a leash" and that's exactly what the film does until its finale. It's as if the film is kept on a slow simmer for as long as it can possibly stand and then the gloves come off and the restraints are removed so it can be as absolutely combustible as possible. There's this incredible elevator sequence that is even more amazing than the one in "Drive." The way the camera whips around, the blood-spattered mayhem that ensues, and the amount of people crammed into that elevator is just an incredible scene. Watching Kang break down every side of this equation is really fascinating. It's like this never ending power struggle that no one can control and yet four or five different people are trying to do just that.
"New World" is similar to "Donnie Brasco" in a lot of ways. Not only is it about an undercover cop finding more in common with the criminal side of things than the just, but "New World" doesn't rely on the heavy use of special effects and skips the candy coated fluff of a typical blockbuster. "New World" is more methodical as it attempts to bring attention to superb storytelling and remarkable acting from its entire cast. "New World" is just an intense crime thriller that is solid from beginning to end no matter how you look at it.
"New World" is playing exclusively at the AMC Studio 30 movie theater here in Houston starting today, March 22.