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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

VETERAN -- DVD Review by Porfle

Korean writer-director Ryoo Seung-wan's VETERAN (2015) is one seriously good cop flick.  Action, drama, comedy, thrills, suspense--it's all there and there's lots of it.

The film manages to be alternately gritty and funny in its opening minutes as a crack team of Korean cops go after a Korean-Russian automobile smuggling ring. This sequence starts things off with a bang as we're introduced to seasoned detective Seo Do-cheo (a rich performance by Hwang Jung-min), who enjoys scrapping with the guys he's arresting, and his down-to-earth team leader Oh (Oh Dal-su), who gets in on the action himself and always has Seo's back. 

The rest of the team, including everyone's favorite, the lovely and capable Miss Bong (Jang Yoon-ju), are a quirky bunch whose continuing exploits would be ideal fodder for a TV series. 

After the exciting opening, the story proper focuses on Seo's friend Bae, a lowly freight driver for the monolithic Sin Jin corporation, being beaten to a pulp in one of the executive offices after a contract complaint and then apparently attempting suicide in shame by taking a high dive down a flight of stairs. 

When the matter is hushed up, Seo oversteps his jurisdictional bounds and steps on several toes, including those of his department supervisor and members of Internal Affairs, in an attempt to get to the bottom of his friend's fate. 

Yoo Ah-in is brilliant as handsome but evil young Jo Tae-oh, eventual heir to the presidency of Sin Jin despite being a spoiled, dangerously impulsive narcissist with a severe anger management problem. Jo delights in humiliating and abusing his employees, a fact the shocked Seo observes firsthand during a party for the "super rich" which he attends after serving as technical advisor for a TV cop show.

As both the Bae situation and Jo Tae-oh's sinister schemes to cover it up intensify, so do Seo's efforts to overcome political red tape and other obstacles in his quest for justice.  One attempt on his life during this time leads to a furious knife fight inside a cramped apartment, resulting in the team's "newbie" getting seriously stabbed ("You stabbed our newbie!" the other team members indignantly remind a prisoner later). 

Finally the stage is set for a violent confrontation between the cops vs. Jo Tae-oh and his Sin Jin goons which will include a spectacular vehicle chase through the heart of the city that's filled with bent fenders and shattered glass, not to mention a few flying bodies.

Ryoo Seung-wan's solidly self-assured script crackles with great hardboiled dialogue, humor, and riveting drama, moving smoothly from one to the other without missing a beat. His direction is eye-pleasing and slick while still keeping its edge, particularly the fight action which is briskly done without looking overly choreographed.

The cast is uniformly fine, with the three leads--Hwang Jung-min, Yoo Ah-in, and Oh Dal-su--particularly effective, as is Yoo Hae-jin as Jo's pathetic toady Choi. Amidst all the sound and fury, Ryoo Seung-wan (THE BERLIN FILE, THE CITY OF VIOLENCE) finds time for plenty of engaging character interplay that makes the film all the more satisfying.

The DVD from CJ Entertainment is in 16 x 9 widescreen with both English (dubbed) and Korean 5.1 Dolby digital soundtracks and English subtitles.  Extras consist of trailers for this and other CJ Entertainment releases. 

I liked VETERAN so much that I immediately wanted to watch it again, which was great because the second time I could really relax and enjoy it without having to figure out the sometimes complicated plot.  And with this sizzling firecracker of a cop flick, there's an awful lot to enjoy.

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