Nameless Gangster Reviews
Set in Busan (South Korea) early 80s - the film starts with footage from the period showing massive crack-down on crime-gangs, after country's President Roh Tae-woo declares war on gang-crimes - who'd vowed during election-campaign to rid country of corruption and crime. Choi Ik-hyun (Choi Min-sik) is handcuffed and behind the bar where he's visited by country Attorney-General, who asks him to write his confession about his involvement with the gangs (which he denies, and gets a beat for this).
Film than jumps back to the past, showing the rise of Choi as beneficial to crime-syndicate. He works as custom officer of mere rank at shipyard. He owns lovely family (a wife - 2 daughters and small son). He seems to have reach to influential governmental, official bodies - based on his clan-name he uses it to persuade the people to help him out from grave situations, often using it to receive favors and sympathy. In deep down he's neither coward nor a brave person. One day he finds 10kg of heroin in the container which his colleague takes him to a young handsome looking drug-dealer Choi Hyung-bai (Ha Jung-woo). After learning the clan-name (Choi), Choi rebukes him and asks him to bow before him - soon he's shown getting slaps after slaps from Hyung-bai's bodyguard. Choi reaches out to his old father who scolds Hyung-bae for treating him that way and further informs him that Choi had actually helped him during his boat-operating days. This sets of long-lasting partnership between Choi and Hyung-bai - Choi tells him, 'I have got brain and you've got muscles - let's use them to grow as one'.
I tried to play this movie to get a preview of it but then decided to continue it - because I was fascinated by the pace and settings in it. Remarkable indeed, this concludes the reasonable assumption that Korean cinema has taken correct path to achieve its goals of becoming one of the finest cinemas from largest continent (Asia). What is there to learn more about acting when you have name like 'Choi Min-sik' and 'Ha Jung-woo'; but it's actually Min-sik who steals the show. He has continued his rhythm of bearing sensitive approach that he shown in 'Oldboy' and 'I Saw The Devil'.
Nameless Gangster should be regarded long after this in milieu of movies that became pioneers to set standards for South Korean cinema. Go ahead and enjoy the brain and genius tactics that Choi applies to get his assignments done - that even Michael Corleone or others used little for their scenes.
Not sure who was better out of Choi Min Sik and Ha Jung Woo because they were both just incredible in their roles.
The film was interesting, but a few things worked against further appreciation of the film. I couldn't grasp the significance of the importance of family relationships and how this could save him from death numerous times. This was very crucial to one's understanding of the story, because in an American gangster movie, he would have been toast quickly, and this would have been a film short.
Over and above that, he is beaten up several times and emerges with nary a scratch. In addition, he (Choi) is a rumpled and unattractive man who lacks a moral compass; as a result, I was unable to generate any sympathy or rooting interest, and the supporting cast fell into the same category. I also think there was an occasional continuity lapse. For instance, in one scene, one of the major drug dealers is stabbed in the abdomen and bleeds profusely. In the next scene, he is his old, menacing self, as if nothing happened to him. Many meetings and dinners take place seemingly without relevance or time frame; who are these people, and why are they there? And where are they?
I did the best I could to keep up and there were several violent scenes with fights and beatings and apparently no one in Korea uses guns, which would have ended some of those fight scenes pretty quickly. Sound was amplified for the fights and beatings - having seen many gangster pictures, the slaps and blows are never that loud.
I rated it a six - perhaps I would have appreciated it more if I had a better understanding of Korean customs and culture. Or maybe if I were given a reason to root for the protagonist.