It's time to catch up with Old Boy favourite Min-sik Choi to see what trouble he's getting into now with Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time. This time we head back in time to the 1980s and 90s as he does a Walter White and gets mixed up in organised crime. Everything is set for disorder, pain and a few questionable haircuts.
In the early 1980s Choi plays a lowly customs officer going about his business. Apart from the usual customs duties his business also involves the occasional bribe and the swiping of goods that takes his interest. He discovers a consignment of crystal meth and tries to sell it onto a Japanese yakuza that Choi's associate has contacts with. This provides his first steps in organised crime causing all manner of havoc including a not-so-consensual night club acquisition, a touch of inevitable betrayal and all out gang war. The authorities won't have any of that and so they start a crack down on the gangs. As they start to close in though and the crime organisations start to implode, self preservation and betrayal become the order of the day. And in the end does someone win?
Watching Min-sik Choi can be a a love/hate experience in his films. Full of distasteful qualities, he still somehow manages to be likeable. This film is no exception as the viewer starts to feel sympathy for him. Min-sik Choi's performance is too good to ignore.
Ably supporting Min-sik Choi is Jung-woo Ha whose character nicely progresses through the film. He has a nice menace about him and provides a good foil to Min-sik Choi in their understated performances.
There's lots of gritty performances from the cast. By that I mean a swathe of actors get angry, violent and drunk - a lot. There's hit after hit then revenge hit and counter hit. It's all about the hits.
The violence in the film is quickly established with it being small and intimate
rather than anything grand. This makes it far more relatable and effective. In this abrasive film, you can feel every strike leading to a typically visceral experience for the viewer. Encounters with rival gangsters involve little pretence and a whole lot of beatings with pipes, bats or whatever is handy. The characters' honour and ego seems to prevent anything resembling reasonableness to be done so excessive force is used instead. Dealing with yakuza, one character seems to get drunk a lot and then get beaten up a lot. With all these messed up people it's any wonder how they put any organisation into their organised crime.
A surprise success at the Korean box office, the film's length will demand the viewer to pay attention for long periods. Those who do will be rewarded with an emotional amusement ride. It's a nicely photographed film with lots of atmosphere even though those 80s haircuts get a little distracting. There's some groovy surf guitar music and some good food to check out in the mix to make this a highly effective film.
By Michael Collins
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