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Film bits and bobs

Veteran (2015)

Review of film that formed part of the ‘0th’ Edition of the London East Asian Film Festival (LEAFF 2015)

2015_4_

“No police has ever touched one of the superrich,” team chief Oh (Oh Dal-su) tells his detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) in Veteran.

Still, Ryoo Seung-wan’s eleventh feature carefully teases out the points of contact between these two otherwise disparate groups, right from its opening sequence in which Do-cheol is seen posing as a pampered playboy in order to infiltrate a gang of luxury car heisters. Fearless in his determination to bring down criminals, yet lax when it comes to the finer points of the law, Do-cheol is a man of contradictions, utterly incorruptible yet capable of grievously harming bodies and even manufacturing evidence if it will aid his dogged pursuit of justice.

Aptly enough, Do-cheol will meet his nemesis, the young corporate heir Jo Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in), at an afterparty for a TV cop show on which Do-cheol had served as an advisor, and which Tae-oh had bankrolled. For it is only really in the world of entertainment – including films like Veteran – that a lowly (and low-paid) policeman could come into such close collision with a member of the moneyed élites. Sure enough their continuing bump and grind will take place before CCTVs, cellphones and other recording devices, even as they both are shown, in a pair of parallel scenes, switching off cameras to conceal acts of violence from public scrutiny (the worst enemy of both, at least until the very end).

Do-cheol senses – correctly – that Tae-oh is trouble as soon as they meet, not least because Tae-oh puts on such a grotesque performance of the kind of behaviour that might be expected from someone so over-entitled and unrestrained. When Do-cheol’s friend Bae (Jung Woong-in), a unionised haulier on a mission to be duly paid for work that he has done, is left in a coma from an apparent suicide attempt following an encounter with Tae-oh, the detective’s investigations will take him right to the very top, leading to an inevitable, very public showdown between these two men of violence.

‘Veteran’ is a term used ironically in the film by Tae-oh of Do-cheol’s old-school toughness – yet the real veteran here is writer/director Ryoo who, with films like Die Bad (2000), The City of Violence (2006), The Unjust (2010) and The Berlin File (2013), has made thrillingly elaborate over-the-top action sequences his long-time stock in trade. Here he adds a welcome measure of humour to the mix, whether in the bumbling efforts of Do-cheol’s colleagues, or in the detective’s toxic relationship with his wife Joo-yeon (Jin Kyung). Aided by the dynamic choreography of long-time collaborator Jung Doo-hong, Ryoo takes the audience on an exciting, often very funny ride through Korea’s social divisions, class inequalities and rough justice, Gangnam-style or otherwise. Released in domestic cinemas in August, the film has already struck a chord with local audiences, and become the third biggest grossing Korean film of all time.

Anton Bitel

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One comment on “Veteran (2015)

  1. Pingback: “Right in the middle”: writer/director Ryoo Seung-wan on the search for balance | RantBit

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This entry was posted on November 7, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .

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