have a strong sense of history, probably because the past is constantly coming
to bite them. Lee Joon-seok is a case in
point. He will have all sorts of
unfinished business on his hands after serving his seventeen year prison
sentence in Kwak Kyung-taek’s Friend 2:
the Legacy (trailer
opens tomorrow in New York.
is doing time for ordering the hit on a rival gang leader, who was once his
childhood best friend. The turncoat was
sort of asking for it, but it still bothers Lee from time to time. Shortly before his release, Lee is visited by
a casual social acquaintance from his youth. Her son Choi Seong-hoon is a fellow
prisoner, who has been marked for death after crossing Lee’s outfit. Much to his surprise, Lee extends his protection
to the young thug, eventually taking him on as a protégé when they are both
will be busy. Lee finds the syndicate
his father first organized has been largely hijacked by Eun-gi, a cold-blooded boardroom
gangster who exploited the vacuum left by Lee’s incarceration and the failing
health of their Chairman. Obviously, Lee
is not about to let this stand, even when a fairly obvious revelation threatens
to undermine his relationship with the volatile Choi.
Friend 2 probably has four
or five flashbacks too many, periodically revisiting not just Lee and Choi’s tumultuous
backstories, but also giving viewers the highlights of the gang’s formative
days under Lee’s enterprising father.
The latter are almost superfluously tangential, but they are executed with
a good deal of style and provide a lot of gangster genre goodies, so its worth
going along with them, even if the confuse the narrative thread.
Yoo Oh-seong is unquestionably Friend 2’s
steely MVP. He is all hardnosed business
as Lee, yet he still suggests hints of that troubled conscious buried somewhere
deep within him. Kim Woo-bin is certainly convincingly erratic as Choi. Frankly, Friend
2 is not a great showcase for women’s roles, but the always reliable Jang
Yeong-nam works wonders as Choi’s still attractive and resilient mother.
The gangster themes of family, loyalty, and
betrayal are pretty standard stuff by now, but Friend 2’s executes them with energy and conviction. The hits and brawls are always quite cinematic
and the period scenes are nicely crafted.
Propelled by Yoo’s serious-as-a-heart attack performance, Friend 2 is a solidly entertaining (if
not exactly game-changing) crime epic, recommended for those who appreciate the
specific genre and Korean cinema in general.
It opens tomorrow (12/13) in New York at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Gangster Films, Korean Cinema, Sequels