Like so many of the genre that hail from Seoul and its suburbs, this one punches well above its weight with an inventive reworking of well-worn plot tropes and slick production values.

Like so many of the genre that hail from Seoul and its suburbs, this one punches well above its weight with an inventive reworking of well-worn plot tropes and slick production values. There’s not much going on beneath the energetic surface, but for the most part The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is a fast-paced, entertaining thriller buoyed by two engaging leads. Don’t mess it up in translation, Sly.

Yes, it’s car crashes and fight sequences and dry jokes, but it’s a mix that will make you wow, wince and guffaw in just the right amounts, all carried off with a gritty style. Action-packed thriller from South Korea about partnerships and competition in hunting a killer; a perfect film from Lee Won-tae apart from a few clichés. Energetic and all the better for its sensible running time, though nothing new, it’s an enjoyable film, if one that would have been improved by not pulling so many punches. It also bubbles with a propulsive energy. Polished and glossy, it moves along with an easy, rapid momentum, myriad action beats, and another top-tier performance from Ma Dong-seok as a businessman brawler.  The film doesn’t dig too deep, but works because it doesn’t get lost in the some of the deeper trappings of the genre.

This is the sort of sepia-glazed, midnight viewing cheesiness coming from a young mind, with masculinity carrying a crayon-drawn border around its unholy trio.

A solid, if not quite exceptional, time-passer.

Ma Dong-seok as Jang Dong-soo
Kim Mu-yeol as Jung Tae-suk
Kim Sung-kyu as Kang Kyung-ho (K)

Choi Min-chul as Kwon Oh-sung

The fire hit for fans of this action genre.

A man’s car is hit by a stranger who kills him when he gets down to take pictures of the damage for claiming car insurance. Jung Tae-suk is a cop who goes through the crime scene and suspects it to be the work of a serial killer, but his senior does not believe him.

Gangster Jang Dong-soo is on his way home after a meeting when the same killer hits his car and eventually tries to kill him. A brutal fight ensues, leaving both of them injured. Finally, the killer escapes after knocking Dong-soo with his car. Dong-soo is admitted to the hospital, and his henchmen assume that the attack was committed by a rival gang, whom they counter-attack. However, Dong-soo believes the killer was not a rival gang member as his moves seemed to be random and purposeless. Tae-suk visits Dong-soo at the hospital and asks him to cooperate so that he can catch the killer for him, but Dong-soo does not comply. Instead, Dong-soo orders his men to find the killer through a sketch, and they manage to find his car and a knife. Dong-soo eventually informs Tae-suk of the findings, and they decide to team up to catch the mysterious killer. Dong-soo agrees to provide manpower and cover expenses — but on the condition that the killer belongs to the one who finds him first. Dong-soo wants to kill him for revenge while Tae-suk wants to arrest him in order to solve five connected murder cases and then eventually get promoted.

Meanwhile, Dong-soo orders his right-hand man, Kwon Oh-sung, to kill his rival Heo Sang-do with the killer’s knife that already has the blood imprints of the killer’s previous victims. An enraged Tae-suk gets into a fight with Dong-soo upon learning what he has done as the killing is confirmed to be the serial killer’s work and the case would get transferred to the Major Case Squad. Dong-soo visits Sang-do’s funeral where the killer also turns up informing Sang-do’s second-in-command man that it was Dong-soo who actually killed Sang-do with the killer’s knife.

When Tae-suk and Dong-soo check the killer’s car for any evidence, they are attacked by Sang-do’s henchmen. A fight ensues, resulting in the death of Sang-do’s right-hand man. Dong-soo gets him buried and clears the scene. Tae-suk is now assigned to investigate a kidnapping case, and, while solving it, he spots the killer. A chase ensues, but the killer flees. Through the forensic tests, Tae-suk discovers the killer to be a missing person. He informs Dong-soo about this and lets him hear a voice clip to confirm the missing person to be the killer. Later, Dong-soo helps a high school girl by giving her his umbrella and soon learns that the girl has been murdered and his umbrella was found at the crime scene. They start looking for the killer and eventually find him in a car. In an ensuing chase, the killer manages to kill Oh-sung but is finally captured and incapacitated by Dong-soo. The gangster takes the killer away to torture and kill him, but Tae-suk tracks them and crashes his car into the hideout, knocking Dong-soo unconscious and arresting the killer.

The police have no conclusive evidence against the killer, Kang Kyung-ho. As a last resort, Tae-suk asks Dong-soo, the sole survivor of the attacks, to testify. Simultaneously, Tae-suk threatens to release a tape of Dong-soo’s confession of having Sang-do killed. During Kyung-ho’s trial, Dong-soo arrives to testify and provides decisive testimony. Dong-soo successfully predicts the existence of a stab wound on Kyung-ho’s body, previously inflicted by Dong-soo during their first encounter. Dong-soo also provides misleading evidence framing Kyung-ho for Sang-do’s murder. The court sentences Kyung-ho to death; however, Dong-soo is also arrested due to his illegal activities.

Tae-suk is finally promoted while Dong-soo is sent to the prison where Kyung-ho is kept — the condition that Dong-soo had requested Tae-suk to fulfill in exchange for the testimony followed by his arrest. Spotting Kyung-ho, Dong-soo gleefully enters prison.

In prison, while Kyung-ho is showering, he is confronted by Dong-soo. With a rope in his hand and a smile on his face, Dong-soo tells Kyung-ho that the game is over.

Movie Information

Release date: June 7, 2019 (USA)
Director: Won-Tae Lee
Box office: $25.8 million
Language: Korean
Production company: B.A. Entertainment
Music by: Jo Yeong-wook

Peter Ahn

Peter Ahn

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