Detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) is a vital part of the most maverick bunch of cops Seoul has to offer, going to great lengths to secure their arrests even if it means reaching for the undercover accoutrements and inveigling their way into the underworld, as happens tonight when he shows up at a car ring's garage and tells all present that they don't want to mess with him, so they had better come quietly. As you might expect, the gang members are sceptical that Seo could overpower them, even if he is wielding a pair of handcuffs, and round on him, but it turns out he was as good as his word, as one reason he had joined the force was to beat people up. All in a day's work...
But it was less the criminal underground that our hero would be concerning himself with here, and more the overground, so to speak, those corporate sharks who exist at the top of towering skyscrapers and orchestrate their activities with underlings ready to take the hit should anything go awry, leaving the bosses to exist in a state of untouchable lawlessness. There was a definite class angle to writer and director Ryoo Seung-wan's thriller, and he was, it was safe to say, less than enamoured of the rich kids who used their wealth to behave as badly as they wished with an impunity born of nobody ever telling them what to do, or that they were doing wrong.
Very serious wrong, as after a rambling first half hour where we were introduced to various characters and situations that Seo would meet in a typical day, and also establishing his nice guy credentials in spite of his talent for cracking heads, we were finally able to clap eyes on the movie's true villain, Jo Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in). He was a nasty piece of work, smugly entitled in a way suggesting he believed he was entitled not merely to the best in life, but to treat everyone around him like scum since he was the one holding the reins of power and no matter how awful he was, he was cushioned from a prison sentence by his sycophants who either acquiesced to this treatment, or actively encouraged it.
Merely by not standing up to Jo, which would be a start, but by consenting to everything he does as if he were some master race representative whose getting away with it was part and parcel of their society. It was true that this bad guy was played up to the hilt by Yoo, and the screenplay was a big part of letting him off the leash of common decency, painting him as some form of caricature of a corporate monster and rich bastard combined. We were left in no doubt that we had to detest Jo, but the other characters around him were not so sharply delineated in morals, for what was Seo but an authority figure who was abusing his power? Fair enough, he was doing so to catch the criminals, but you could not observe he was the fine, upstanding member of the community and the polar opposite to his adversary.
This created an intriguing dynamic, as Seo has to fathom a method of doing his best to take Jo down within the law, for if he strays over the lines of the legal it will see him off the case and the target of his ire off the hook, an interesting path to take when Seo is your clichéd maverick cop. Meanwhile Jo is pulling strings, as are his right-hand men, to ensure that he stays spotless as far as any proceedings go towards him, and over a substantial two hours we were treated to intrigue and frustrating suspense where it seems as if the antagonist is going to get away with it, not because he is some criminal mastermind, but because the system is all in his favour. Seo won't let the apparent suicide attempt of one of Jo's employees go, a man with a grievance when he is owed back pay, and it appears this is the crack in the company's spotless façade that can allow a way in to achieve the long-awaited justice. With a surprisingly tight script, as everything, even the seemingly throwaway elements, comes into play, it was less than subtle, but did the job. Music by Bang Jun-seok and Kim Myung Hwan.