The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is a new South Korean drama-thriller film directed by Lee Won-Tae. The movie follows a crime boss who, narrowly avoiding death at the hands of a serial killer, teams up with a young and arrogant cop to track down his assailant. It debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival out of competition.
This film’s story is relatively straightforward, but it is effective at providing a scenario that offers plenty of action and suspense. If you can turn your brain off for the length of the movie, you will have a ton of fun. The idea of the good guy teaming up with a bad guy to catch a worse guy isn’t anything new — Silence of the Lambs is a classic example — but it hasn’t been enough for it to be annoying yet.
The film does an excellent job of making the eponymous gangster, arguably the protagonist of the movie, an extremely compelling character. Although the extremes to which he goes aren’t always likable, his motivations are sympathetic. He has a redemption arc over the course of the film that is quite interesting. The other two characters referenced in the title of the movie are nowhere near as developed as the gangster.
In terms of pacing, the film is very satisfying for a crime thriller. The first twenty or so minutes provide the set-up we need to get absorbed into the mystery. After that point, the movie moves pretty much nonstop for the rest of its runtime. Particularly impressive is the film’s ability to build suspense despite the fact that the killer’s identity is not a mystery.
The action in the movie is relatively impressive, especially towards the end of the film. The choreography isn’t particularly creative or memorable, but it is exciting in the moment and mostly well-shot. Additionally, the stars involved in the action make it significantly more enjoyable than it might otherwise be. The car chase sequence was particularly fun.
Ma Dong-seok truly is one of the best action stars working today, so it is wonderful that he will be getting to reprise this role from this movie in an American remake of this film. Ma is endlessly charismatic and handles the action super well. Kim Moo-Yul is also very good in his role, but Ma steals the scene every time.
On a technical level, the movie was mostly solid, although it does have a few issues. For the most part, the cinematography is solid, but there are a handful of shots that felt oddly framed. The look of the film as a whole is very good, though, doing an excellent job of creating the neo-noir homage for which the movie is so obviously aiming.
Overall, The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil was an enjoyable and mostly well-made film. Although it may not have the most unconventional story, the enjoyable action and solid acting make it worth watching alone.
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is now playing in theaters.