Veteran (South Korea, 2015) [TIFF 2015]
Veteran is the latest offering from the highly talented South Korean director Ryoo Seung-wan, whose previous credits include The City of Violence (2006) and The Berlin File (2013). It’s a policier with plenty of action that also has a lot of deft comic touches.
Hwang Jung-min stars as Seo Do-cheol, a veteran detective who works out of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. He’s about as straight an arrow as a law enforcement officer as you’ll ever come across and also moonlights as a consultant for a detective drama on television. We first meet him as he brings down an auto theft ring, in an action scene somewhat reminiscent of the premiere episode of Sammo Hung’s American television series Marshal Law (1998-2000). Do-cheol is quite adept at dealing out a fistful of whoop-ass. But he also has a serious and tender side, especially when it comes to friends, such as Bae, a truck driver who assisted in bringing down the higher ups in the auto theft operation.
After Bae is victimized by a sub-contractor of a huge corporation, Do-cheol comes up against Cho Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in), who is the son of the chairman of the corporation (Song Yung-chang). With his father under investigation, Tae-oh is likely to take over the business. His only problem is that he’s a violence-prone psychopathic drug user! But with well-connected friends in politics and the upper echelons of the police force, he seems all but immune to arrest and prosecution.
The confrontation between the irresistible force of detective Seo Do-cheol’s righteousness and Cho Tae-oh’s immovable object of a protected, crazed corporate maniac makes for great viewing. And the numerous comic touches really make the mix all the more enjoyable.
Hwang gives a wonderfully modulated performance. He’s tough in the action scenes, funny when called for, and touching when need be. He’s supported by a wonderful cast that includes Oh Dal-su as Team Leader Oh, Jang Yoon-ju, who makes her film debut as Miss Bong, a high-flying police officer, and Yoo Hae-jin as Choi Sang-moo, Tae-oh’s cousin and chief adviser.
Veteran, which has done great business in South Korea where it topped the box office for several weeks, made its North American debut on September 13th in the Vanguard section of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival. It will be opening in theaters in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, September 18th. For more information, including a full list of theaters where Veteran will be playing, visit the CJ Entertainment website.
This review was first posted at AsianCineFest.