Sunday, June 26, 2011
NYAFF: The Unjust (2010)
From Tyoo Seung-Wan,the director of City of Violence , comes a film that isn't an action film. The film is a bleak black examination of corruption through out Korean society. I'm writing the film up prior to the start of the New York Asian Film Festival where it's being run as part of the Sea of Revenge series, because if you go in looking for one thing you may end up slightly disappointed as a film that is one of the very best films at the NYAFF this year loses its way in it's final moments.
The film begins in the middle of the chaos of a serial rape and murder scare. Someone has been kidnapping young girls and doing unspeakable things to them. Chasing down a suspect one of the police officers shoots and kills him. You would think case closed but it's not, the shooter was an uncle to one of the victims. Worse while everyone is reasonably certain they got the right guy, they don't have any viable evidence. With the public (and the President) clamoring for a real solution, what do do?
Frame a suitable suspect of course.
From here the film gets up to full steam as the higher ups in the police set up a good cop, who isn't in the Academy clique and who has problems with internal affairs, to head the patsy investigation. The trouble is that things are complicated, thanks to everyone (police and prosecutors) having loyalties on either side of a big real estate deal.
This uncomfortable and often unsettling look at the corruption in public places works for most of it's running time. Buoyed by a killer visual sense and some great performances. The film can't help but disillusion you about how things are done by the police and by prosecutors. For most of the film's running time this is one of the best films you are going to see this year anywhere.
The problem with the film is that for about 95 of the films 119 minutes the film is largely a drama, with a few fleeting moments of "violence". Then something happens. The film changes and becomes a a more conventional crime story where the film begins to twist and twist again and the film loses it's way. Actually the conclusion of the story seems to have been added to satisfy people other than the filmmakers with a little bit of violence and a denouncement or two that ring very hollow. (I'm guessing the govenment didn't want there to seem to be so much corruption they had it toned down)
I like the film a great deal but I would have loved it had it not flip flopped around in the final twenty minutes. For me it was jarring and as if I switched the DVD to another movie.(I have an import DVD). It was a switch that even my Dad, who was watching the film with me, noticed. Its that sudden shift in the end that makes me want to warn you about a mostly five star film that suddenly goes flat in the end.
Reservations with the ending aside this is one of the best films at this years NYAFF.