The winner of the Blue Dragon Award for Best Direction and currently the third highest grossing film in South Korean cinema history, “Veteran” is one of the most entertaining films to come out of S.Korea in the last few years, in the fashion of the Hong Kong action comedies of the 80s.
The film starts with a rather “goofy” mood, as it introduces a police team that hassles a grand theft auto gang, an attempt that results in their arrest after the in-field leader of the team and the film’s protagonist, Detective Seol Do Cheol, beats them up to a pulp, while extracting a confession from their leader. Subsequently, and after the arrest of a Russian gang, the film takes a turn to the dramatic, as it presents the story of Bae, a truck driver who becomes the victim of a violent and ruthless heir of a large conglomerate, in an incident that results in his alleged suicide and his treatment in a hospital while comatose. From that point on, the film becomes a confrontation between Seol and the aforementioned heir, named Cho Tae Ho, a truly despicable human being who even his own father despises.
Ryoo Seung-wan directed a sublime action film, incorporating artfully elements of all the themes and motives this kind of movie should entail, including very fast pace, martial arts, car and human chasing, comedy, and a clear distinction between good and evil. Moreover, he incorporated the most popular theme in Korea nowadays, the corruption of the richest and its effect on public institutions, as the Police Force and the Judiciary.
The action choreographer, Jung Doo-hong did an astonishing job in a plethora of scenes, particularly the ending one, which is utterly impressive. The action scenes also benefit the most by the rapid editing of Kim Jae-beom and Kim Sang-beom, that guides perfectly the general pace of the film. Along with the impressive cinematography by Choi Young-hwan, which gives great images in the urban setting, the film is actually a visual masterpiece, as its large budget was perfectly implemented in the technical aspect.
Hwang Jung-min is great as usual as Seol Do-cheol and Yoo Ahn-in portrays impressively a truly onerous character as Cho Tae-ho. Of equal quality is the performance by Oh Dal-su as Team Leader Oh, who, once more, represents the comical element in the film, and by Yu Hae-jin, who is great in portraying a lowly and truly despicable villain.
“Veteran” is a great film, one of the rare productions that manage to combine blockbuster aesthetics with true film artistry.
The film is part of the great S.Korean selection of the Korean Film Festival in Australia, that will be on until September 25