The City of Violence director Ryoo Seung Wan has made a name for himself over the years. With the classic plot of a serial killer, who is on the loose in Seoul and the pressure is on the cops to catch him, I already knew I was going to get a crazy flick. The police think they have a suspect but he’s shot by a cop who is an uncle of a victim, and without strong evidence they have to do something that will satisfy the public. Soon the pair are pitted against one another, each determined to stop the other’s progress, whatever the cost. The storytelling is fast paced. It is set, at least in part, in an urban environment. The environment plays upon the characters and you get a real feel for how gritty they really are.
At the same time, the film is all the more powerful for never demonising either of them. The complex relations between the main characters leads to confusion in the story line. It makes this film feel too long for its contents. I feel like for the running time of 2 hours, the film could have been fleshed out some. However, The Unjust succeeds in taking familiar observations about bureaucracy but the amount of violence in several scenes felt unnecessary as it was very, very explicit. I have qualms here and there, but at the end of the day, The Unjust achieves a happy marriage between commercial savvy and artistic integrity.
A lot happens in this action film, and inter-relations between respective characters were not always clear to me. For example, several people were blackmailed, bribed or otherwise pressured, but you could not always determine who was giving and who was taking. The viewer is never spoon-fed answers, so if you do watch this film, your undivided attention is mandatory to piece together this puzzle. In fact, I was debating on rewatching this before posting a review, as I may have gotten a firmer grasp on the overall story. The film evinces a deep irony while at the same time provided excellent cinematography, with swooping shots and tight contrasts. With its production values, great director, and art direction — It’s not surprising that The Unjust was one of Korea’s biggest box office draws in 2010.
Asian genre fans should find themselves at home here with this film. Hence there should be no reason to get bored. But still, the lack of purpose and direction of what we see happening, does not work out well to maintain our attention. Although it’s a little hard to describe anything this dark as being enjoyable in the traditional sense (our editor Olivia will steer clear of this one for sure), it is still a film worthy of your time. It isn’t the directors best body of work but it is still an emotionally powerful film that has plenty of shootouts, lots of car chases, stabbings, and of course, fist fights. maintain a grip on the audience till the end. What it does achieve is that it will maintain a grip on the audience till the end. In my book, that is a win-win.