Ready to get ever-so-slightly confused, my fellow Korean movie fan? Well, Friend 2: The Legacy picks up exactly 17 years after the action in the original Friend movie, even though only 13 years have actually passed since the first movie was shot. Why the discrepancy, I don't know. Furthermore, the movie isn't just a sequel (with some flashbacks to old footage we've already seen). It also flashes further back to an extended prequel that predates part one, as well to a kind of latter-day prequel with action that's post-Friend but pre-Friend 2. With all this jumping back and forth (if you're anything like me), you're going to question which is the primary storyline and whether you truly need to know so much ancestry about so many characters. I mean, The Godfather this is not. Plus there is no Old Country.
So what's supposed to be the focus here? Is it the current-day partnership between newly released con and mob heavy Lee Joon-seok (Yu Oh-seong) and fatherless, aspirational teen hood Choi Seong-hoon (Kim Woo-bin) OR is it the familial dramas of Choi and his posse of warrior wannabes OR is it the well-appointed mob history of someone's grandfather? I am frankly still unsure. The present-day ending doesn't resolve any of the stories so much as it positions the characters for a threequel during which it seems likely that the layering could expand to include a scifi future scenario examining the offspring of Lee, Choi and maybe the illegitimate offspring of a character killed off at some point in time. Please don't let these comments dissuade you from checking out Friends 2 if you've already seen its predecessor. Even with all the complications, auteur Kwak Kyung-taek's delivers some undeniable and simple pleasures -- one being the joy that comes with witnessing how much better an actor like Yu has gotten (which isn't to say he wasn't good before) and how much sexier he's gotten too; the other is getting to see a new, young talent like Kim glower in scene after scene with one of the best '50s style Elvis coifs to hit the screen in many a day. This movie has left me with a serious care of hair envy.