Nameless Gangster (범죄와의전쟁)
The story of Choi Ik-hyun (Choi Min-sik), a former customs officer turned businessman and his tumultuous rise through the ranks of Busan’s organised crime syndicate.
Choi Min-sik is my hero. After he starred in Oldboy he had the pick of the litter in Korean cinema, he could have done anything. What did he do? Made a boxing film. After which he went on a self-imposed exile to protest the Korean government’s decision to cut screenings of Korean films in cinema’s by 50% to make way for more Hollywood tat, then made a film about the Himalayas that no one watched and then made I Saw the Devil, playing one of the most sadistic characters in film history. You never know what to expect with Mr. Choi. Here he is playing a sort of idiot savant. A man seen sometimes as incredibly inept and socially backwards but also has the aptitude to mastermind multi-layered business deals.
The film is very smart and all the actors are first rate. Ha Jung-woo is all at once charming and frightening as the head of the syndicate. After My Dear Enemy and surprising turns in Kim Ki-duk’s Breathe he is unquestionably one of my favourite Korean actors at the moment. The pacing of the film is masterful, with flashbacks and flash-forwards working well into the story and the production design is fantastic.