Hwang Jung-min, right, appears in a scene from ``The Unjust.’’ The new conspiracy drama by Ryu Seung-wan co-stars Ryu Seung-beom and Yu Hae-jin. /Courtesy of CJ Entertainment
By Lee Hyo-won
Theatrics is not limited to show business ― a scriptwriting prosecutor, a police officer with a knack for producing a convincing mise-en-scene and a sponsor with acting skills can team up to stage the perfect conspiracy.
``The Unjust’’ takes the red-hot issue of sponsored prosecutors and spins it into solid, star-powered entertainment.
While devoid of the usual hip action that defined his earlier works, Ryu Seung-wan’s new film keeps the intrigue alive. It retains a critical view of social ills but does not drown in zealous preaching; rather it gives the noir subject matter an incisively witty and at times humorous ― though never light ― treatment, which is rendered all the more compelling by its talented cast.
``The Unjust’’ is essentially a story about natural selection in the urban jungle, an imperfect place where corruption pierces through the heart of law enforcement bodies.
A terrorizing serial murder seizes the entire country. But when there is no one to blame for the crime, and the pressure of direct presidential orders and the prospects of a promotion loom big, well, then, there are other ways to close the case: hire an actor and put on a show.
Cheol-gi (Hwang Jung-min), the police officer who is in charge of the case, is the best in the business but lacking the right pedigree, he has not been able to climb up the ladder. As the movie’s catch phrase says, ``If there is no criminal, then make one,’’ and when his desperate boss promises him a promotion Cheol-gi decides to jump right into a dirty deal to fool the public. He uses his sponsor, Seok-gu (Yoo Hae-jin), the head of a construction company, to hire an actor and the curtains close to a standing ovation.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Ju Yang (Ryu Seung-beom) has been sponsored by a real estate tycoon. But when Cheol-gi arrests his sponsor, Yang is determined to avenge the policeman for cutting off the generous financial support and starts digging around in order to retaliate. Just in time, Ju is asked to cover the serial murder case and during the course of the investigation, he discovers the illicit deal between Cheol-gi and Seok-gu, and proposes an arrangement of his own to Cheol-gi.
The narrative is largely propelled by the characters and their intentions as they become engaged in a complex web of power struggle and raw human desires. The film makes it clear why each character wants to become a part of the conspiracy but refrains from giving away all the facts and figures, whether or not they are telling the truth. It reveals just enough to keep the audience interested.
As fit for a crime drama, ``The Unjust’’ surprises the viewer with one twist after another. However, such turns are far from providing cathartic thrills ― they rather evoke a sense of pity as they depict without a blink of an eye the weak-willed and violent nature of man.
Moreover, the power struggle is most interesting because there is no dominant power, as everyone is just snooping around, trying to capitalize on the weak points of others.
The fact alone that the director’s younger brother-cum-actor Ryu and the two other irreplaceable actors are joining forces has incited a great expectation for the film, and fans will not be disappointed.
In theaters Oct. 28. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.