The King 더 킹 (2017) - South Korea
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Corruption and Power are two relevant topics that is often seen in Korean movies. The two tends to interlink and hand in hand in both commercial and government. In “The King” we see how corrupt and lust for power for those embedded within a high society and high level of government. Director Han Jae-rim created a film that is easily comparable to the “Wolf of Wall Street” instead putting it through the judiciary system and prosecutors in the Korean government context. It’s a story as much about from rags to riches and ultimately redemption as it is about the notion that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. What we don’t get is a multilayered look on the characters and system, instead we get a two dimensional picture of a complex system that allows corruption and thrust for power for personal gains.
Jo In-sung headlines the film as the main protagonist who is neither good or bad in character, but rather shaped by situations and moments that are directed towards him. Jung Woo-sung plays the chief of prosecutors who is entirely corrupted and in the process recruit new members and players into his “team” that ultimately controls Korea corporate and the underworld and all sections government at the highest level. Kim Ah-joong plays the wife of Jo In-sung and TV anchor is criminally underused. Jung Eun-chae shows good presence as one of those pursuit for justice, but in a male dominated film and prosecution world, her screen time and impact is extremely limited. Bae Seong-woo does extremely well as the introducer and main player of Jung Woo-sung’s regime and comes off with the best acting chops. Ryu Jun-yeol is loyal as the underworld gangster who does the dirty work impresses in a supporting role.
All in all, “The King” is a perfect example of how a complicate and multilayered theme of power and corruption gets a Korean blockbuster treatment. It takes things by the surface, but fails to look at moral dilemmas and human condition. In effect the film could have been great and memorable, instead it comes up as simply entertaining. Still for over two and a half hours of running time, it feels like a breeze and that’s an achievement in itself.
I rated it 8/10