still a young democracy, by the early 1990’s the South Korean government had run
out of patience with the unchecked lawlessness of organized crime. Choi Ik-hyun became one of their top
targets. He did not look like much of a criminal,
but he was very organized. It is time to
get your gangland beatdowns on as the New York Asian Film Festival comes
roaring in with a whole new slate of fresh selections. Yun Jong-bin’s Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time (trailer here) will deliver
plenty of said when it screens at the 20012 festival this Saturday.
is a low level customs inspector, corrupt in the pettiest of ways. His family was once wealthy and respected,
but their fortunes have fallen. However,
he remains hyper connected amongst the larger Choi clan hierarchy. Stumbling across a shipment of heroin, Choi
parlays it and his surname into a business relationship with the Busan mob’s top
gun, Choi Hyung-bae.
Choi looks the part of a gangster. Though
initially skeptical of the doughier Choi, the steely cool gangster comes to
appreciate the value of the older man’s connections and his skill at exploiting
them. For a while, they become a very profitable
team. However, Choi Ik-hyun’s greed and
vanity will lead him to flirt with his “god-son’s” chief rival, Kim Pan-ho, destabilizing
their alliance. Gangsters always do that
kind of thing.
Nameless is far broader
in scope than a mere series of gangland rumbles. Nonetheless, when the Choi and Kim factions
start bashing each other fifty shades of black and blue, it is quite impressively
cinematic. Still, Yun is more concerned with
the zeitgeist of the time, the ROK’s years of transitional democracy, while
depicting the base cunning of a wanna-be consigliere.
special festival guest Choi Min-sik is quite compelling as his slovenly namesake. It might sound like a role quite removed from
the ferocious serial killer he played in I Saw the Devil. Yet, both characters
are small men who react desperately when their method of empowerment is threatened. However, it is Ha Jung-woo who really makes a
lasting impression. Icily fatalistic,
but not without the capacity for explosive rage, his Choi Hyung-bae is exactly
the sort of performance that makes great gangster films tick. Likewise, Kim Seong-gyoon has a nice flair
for ruthless and reckless villainy as the younger’s Choi’s lead enforcer.
It’s been a while since there was a mob movie
with the sweep and ambition of Nameless. It certainly is good to have another
one. Despite the wider historical
context, Yun keeps the action gritty and violent. It is a big picture, but it has a tight
focus. Enthusiastically recommended, it
screens this Saturday (6/30) and next Tuesday (7/3) as part of the 2012 New
York Asian Film Festival.
Labels: Gangster Films, Korean Cinema, NYAFF '12