The world is a place of constant change and those who are timid or tied to the old ways of doing things will be swept aside by those bold enough to seize opportunity, trampling over their predecessors and cutting them down. Goldmoon International, built from rival gangs and legitimised into a business empire, is the largest crime syndicate in South Korea, the factions held in check by newly respectable chairman Seok Dong-chool.
The authorities hoping to bring him down on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion, instead the chairman walks free from court but his chauffeur is unable to avoid a speeding truck at an intersection setting off a war of succession between vice chairman Jang Su-ki (Choi Il-hwa), the outwardly professional but ruthless Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong), and Jung Chung (The Wailing‘s Hwang Jung-min), childish and vulgar as he bullies and demeans his subordinates to establish his authority.
Expecting adulation and affirmation from associates and lackeys, as highly placed as the men are they are kids in a dangerous playground with no rules, any respectability associated with their lofty positions vanishing when the knives come out in the boardroom, but other parties have an interest in who will take the reins of Goldmoon, preferring a weak and pliable candidate.
Playing the long game to bring the organisation down, Police Director Ko (Joo Jin-mo) and Section Chief Kang Hyung-cheol (Lucy‘s Choi Min-sik) have an inside man, undercover police officer Lee Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) who for eight years has served as Goldmoon’s sales director. Exhausted and frightened, his wife heavily pregnant, he wants his long-promised reassignment overseas, but Kang refuses to help until Operation New World is completed.
The second feature from Park Hoon-jung, writer of I Saw the Devil and director of The Showdown, New World was released in February 2013 in its homeland but is only now being given British release as part of Eureka Film’s Montage Pictures range, promoting quality world cinema which would otherwise remain unseen by a wider audience.
A game of blackmail and double-crosses with all of the players over their heads, Kang is the embodiment of the belief that the end justifies the means as he turns his back on the mole he created, leaving Ja-sung to fend for himself in an untenable position where the only way to save himself is to sacrifice others.
Ostensibly sold as a gangster film, it is rather a slick dramatic thriller and sophisticated character study punctuated by moments of sometimes epic and often extreme bloody violence, a truly chaotic hostile takeover whose underground car park battle leads to a lift fight scene which predates The Winter Soldier‘s restrained scuffle by a year.
Running two and a quarter hours, understandably the film never manages to regain its momentum as it recovers in the aftermath of that showdown but it remains a satisfying examination of corruption and compromise carried strongly by its ensemble, and it borders on a crime that audiences have been denied sight of the New World for almost five years.