March 29, 2008

Public Enemy: Why Cops Are Tops in Korea

Public Enemy epitomizes the best of Korean film. A certifiable noir masterpiece, Kang Woo-suk's adrenaline-pumping, fast-paced thriller is a cat-and-mouse game minus the cheese. Standing in for the mouse is sympathetic, slovenly Sol Kyung-gu as the dishonest cop about to rediscover his moral code. In the cat corner, we've got perverse pretty boy Lee Sung-jae as a soulless sociopath cut from the same cloth as American Psycho. But even before these two engage in their battle of wits and fists, the first few minutes before the title pack in more suspense and humor (favoring the former) than most crime movies do in two hours. I actually saw the sequel to this movie (Another Public Enemy) a number of years ago and remember liking it quite a bit. But the original's better: The dialogue crackles. The soundtrack rocks. And the chemistry between the performers suggest backstories you never really need to learn. While the jokes can get scatalogical (a man actually slips in his own shit), Public Enemy knows when to take matters seriously and when to turn the tension into titters. Supposedly, another Public Enemy is slated for 2008. Bring it on.

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