This particular movie is the sequel to “Friend,” one of the most important productions in the history of the contemporary Korean Cinema, since it was among the films that turned the local’s attention to indigenous films after many years, and even became the highest grossing South Korean movie of all time from 2001 to 2003.
The original told the story of four friends. Joon-seok, whose father was a mob boss, a position he acquired himself later on, Dong-su, who later joined a rival gang, Jung-ho, the class clown, and Sang-taek, the only one who utterly escaped any mob taints. At the end of the first film, Dong-su is murdered and in the subsequent trial, Joon-seok pleads guilty and ends up in prison.
The sequel begins 17 years after those incidents, when Dong-su’s son, Sung-hoon, who has also become a mobster, gets into jail for severely traumatizing his stepfather, after he witnesses him hurting his mother, Hye-ji. He ends up in the same prison Joon-seok is, and Hye-ji pleads to her husband’s old friend to help him stay safe, since he is the undisputed leader of the convicts in the facility. He agrees and a father-son relationship initiates between the two, that becomes even stronger, when Joon-seok is released only to find his old subordinate, Eun-ki having usurped the leadership of the gang. In order to remove him, he asks help from his old comrades and Sung-hoon’s gang. Eventually though, the latter learns of the reason Dong-su was in prison, a knowledge that complicates their relationship.
Kwak Kyung-taek directs a film that shouts big-budget from the beginning, a fact that becomes even more obvious as the story unfolds, with impressive action scenes, plethora of exterior shots and the many supernumeraries appearing throughout its duration. Additionally, he has entailed some comic elements, a bit of drama and some overtly violent scenes, which altogether, amount to the quintessence of the Korean action flick.
However, the almost constant flashbacks and the desperate effort to include as many notions, facts and incidents in the film, end up in a somewhat disjointed outcome that even becomes tiresome with all these chronological back and forth. Moreover, the acting is mediocre, particularly from Kim Woo-bin who plays Sung-hoon, whose role mostly consists of him parading his evident good looks around the film. On the other hand, Yu Oh-seong is once more great as Joon-seok, in the role that netted him the Best Actor Award from the Asia-Pacific Festival, in the original film.
To summarize, Friend: The Legacy is an impressive film that will satisfy almost every fan of action movies, although it is obviously a step under the original, particularly due to its direction and acting.