22nd Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Dong-seok Ma, Mu-Yeol Kim, Sung-kyu Kim | Written and Directed by Lee Won-tae


Korean thriller The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil, hot off the press from its debut premiere at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, hit Fantasia 2019 as a Quebec premiere. The film earned relatively positive reviews all round from several critics and publications. However, any film plays drastically different to paying audiences members, especially against the claustrophobic intensity of the Cannes worldview. Lee Won-tae directs only his second feature with The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil after his directorial debut Daejang Kimchangsoo (Man of Will). The director delivers a hard-hitting and at times, brutally vicious thriller that follows a thin definition of entertainment that is not too far from sadistic pleasure.

Both films from Lee Won-tae have a staggering amount of sadistic qualities concerning their plots. His sophomore effort, however, takes the cake with how far it is willing to go to shock its audience. To the films, strength, such violence and profound elements aren’t produced for simplistic sure fired shock value. Instead, contextually every moment adds weight to the respective characters involved and the unfolding plot. The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil isn’t your casual trip to Disney land and within the first ten minutes alone your introduced to a morally ambiguous distrusting set of characters. It’s this element in particular that utterly absorbs its audience’s engagement with watching a game of decently enigmatic characters, who deceive their way through life.

The writing is one of the strongest attributes of this feature. Director Lee Won-tae has primarily exercised himself as a writer throughout his career, and with that, his feature has a profoundly intriguing and foreboding sense of character study. As the title suggests, we follow the titular characters of The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil, played by Dong-seok Ma, Mu-Yeol Kim and Sung-kyu Kim, respectively. Three explicitly distinctive characters with equally as distinguishing characteristics which have their own unique set of interests, attributes and disconcerting temperments. Resulting in a trifecta of vague intentions that leads a boiling pot of dramatic tension and dense atmosphere.

Dong-seok Ma as the Gangster is effortlessly cool and alluring. The breakout star of Train to Busan delivers a brilliantly physical and exciting performance that engulfs the screen. He’s charismatic and evenly as frightening as the film unfolds. Equally as frightening is the performance of Sung-kyu Kim as the Devil. A performance that is wholeheartedly terrifying and is spine-chillingly obtuse to watch. Creepy is perhaps an understatement. Think Hannibal Lecter’s intense aurora and Teddy Bundy’s cruel manner, and you just about have an inkling of the terror such a character imposes on the audience.

The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil screens twice at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019, on Sat 13th July and Sun 28th July.


Comments are closed.