is the same old story. Government is colluding with big business and big media.
At least, journalistic hypocrisy gets a good going over this time around. The
man who links them all together is naturally a gangster. Crossing him is a bad
idea but they do it anyway in Woo Min-ho’s Inside
starring Star Asia Award Recipient Lee Byung-hung, which screens during the
2016 New York Asian Film Festival.
only is Lee an award recipient at this year’s festival, he has also just been
invited to join the Academy, along with cinematic luminaries, such as White Chicks co-star Marlon Wayans and Melrose Place mainstay Daphne Zuniga. At
least Lee makes big movies and An Sang-goo is the sort of role he can finally
sink his teeth into. An built his criminal syndicate doing the dirty work of
the longtime majority party. He was recruited by Lee Gang-hee, the editor of a
national newspaper of selective-record.
An has been busier than ever cleaning up the messes made by Congressman Jang
Pil-woo, the party’s consensus favorite to be their next presidential
candidate. When called to dispose of evidence of a slash fund secretly funding
Jang’s campaign, An keeps a copy for himself. Unfortunately, he lets Lee in on
his game, assuming the duplicitous journalist has his back. This is a terrible
mistake that will cost An a hand (literally severed old school Yakuza-style),
but it will take time for the disgraced gangster to realize and accept the
truth regarding his mentor.
the meantime, An will launch a revenge plot with the remnants of his gang that
will inadvertently compliment the investigation of Woo Jang-hoon, perhaps the
last honest prosecutor in Korea. He has a passion for justice, but without
family connections or powerful patrons, he will need to score some game-changing
convictions to advance. Jang and the automotive company funding him would
perfectly suit the bill.
this is the Lee Byung-hun film we have been waiting for. Unlike the Western productions
that never fully utilize his talents, Inside
Men shows off his action chops as well as the seething intensity probably
last fully seen in Kim Jee-woon’s bracing I Saw the Devil. Yet, An is also a flamboyant character, who lives large,
which makes him fun to watch.
owns the film, but Cho Seung-woo holds up his end as the violently uptight
prosecutor. Lee Kyoung-young chews the scenery with abandon as Congressman Jang,
but he is so conspicuously sleazy, it is hard to fathom anyone ever voting for
him (unless he ran against Clinton and Trump, in which case he would be the
clear lesser of evils). As the sanctimonious Lee Gang-hee, Baek Yoon-sik is
more understated, but equally loathable. It is too bad Lee El does not have
more screen time, because she stands out as An’s loyally accomplice, Joo
Eun-hye, while Bae Sung-woo also adds heft as An’s not so loyal henchman, Park
But wait, there is even more to this story. Woo
has added another fifty minutes for his theatrically re-released director’s
cut. It is a little surprising NYAFF did not screen the big enchilada, but the
one hundred and thirty-minute version never feels incomplete or rushed. It is
all totally slick and cynical, but it purrs along quite smoothly thanks in
great measure to Lee Byung-hun. Recommended for fans of Lee and
gangster-political thrillers, Inside Men screens
this Tuesday (7/5) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Lee Byung-hun, NYAFF '16