THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL is a Pulpy Gangster Flick Brimming with Brawls and Bravado

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is the slick South Korean gangster thriller directed by Lee Won-Tae (Man of Will) that opened in select cities across the US on June 7, 2019. “Based on a true story” that takes place in 2005, the film, which recently screened in the midnight slot at Cannes, already has an American remake in the pipeline. Its US counterpart will be produced by action icon Sylvester Stallone, with star Don Lee already attached to reprise his role as the indestructible don, Dong-Su. The film thankfully lacks the nihilism of the obvious go to comparison, I Saw the Devil, and is instead an oddly more humorous take than I was expecting with the way it tackles the events that transpire.

The early aughts period piece has Kim Moo Yul as the stereotypical loose cannon Detective Jung, who believes a series a grisly series of murders taking place in different regions may be the work of a singular serial killer. No one believes him — that is, until the hulking mob boss Jang Dong-su (Don Lee) is attacked one dark, rainy night and becomes his singular surviving witness and an unlikely ally. When the attack on Dong-su is chalked up to a possible rival who was looking to put the boss out of commission, he decides to form an unlikely alliance with the detective to track down the killer to save face in the underworld. Dong-su’s help of course comes conditionally with the stipulation that if he finds the killer first he will be made the ultimate example of why you shouldn’t mess with the gangster.

Brimming with brawls and bravado, the pulpy gangster flick is a fast-paced thriller that strikes a delicate balance between the dark humor and the more horrific elements presented. The film traffics in the procedural tropes and is very careful not to let the violence overshadow this story of these two men and their unlikely partnership. Don Lee here is a revelation on screen with a performance that is oddly multifaceted and more nuanced than you’d expect. He manages to carry the film on his broad shoulders to completion with a story that doesn’t offer his character any redemption, but something more authentic in my opinion.

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is sure fire hit for fans of this genre. 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. It’s just about a cop and a gangster finding common ground and literally tearing a path through South Korea to catch this guy before he kills again. While I tend to enjoy the more serious and often times more tedious films in this genre more, I think The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil works so well thanks to its ensemble and the lighthearted tone, which allows the some of the odder jumps in logic the film takes.

Look for this film at your local multiplex thanks to Well-go USA, who are giving fans a chance to check this out on the big screen. Get showtimes and theaters here (the site only says June 7, but check the individual theater links for additional dates and times).

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