It’s nice to go into something with no real context and no expectations, sometimes it’s possible to go into watching a film with almost too much information and as a result, it’s very difficult for it to surprise you, so that’s the situation with New World. I went in without knowledge of what I was about to watch beyond that it is billed as a gangster thriller from the creator of the sublime I Saw The Devil, I left having had one of the more pleasant cinematic surprises in a while.

The plot is simple but effective, the boss of a large Crime Syndicate has died and the Police Chief (Oldboy‘s Choi Min-sik) is attempting to play the three figures in line to inherit control of the syndicate against each other. There is also the matter of a young police officer (Jung Jae-lee), implanted undercover in the syndicate for six years who wants out. It sounds a lot like other Gangster films you may have seen, with strong shades of Infernal Affairs (the comparisons not helped by the knowledge that this film is the planned first part of a trilogy, much like the Affairs in question) but it can’t be denied that writer/director Park Joon-hung brings a certain flair to the series that means it transcends simple cliché.

What works for the film thoroughly is that it is less action-heavy than a lot of similar crime fare, preferring to deliver more thoughtful, approach, keeping the thrills more focused on character interactions which is bolstered by a superb cast, with Choi Min-sik and Huang Jung-min as a mercurial, charismatic variation on the well-dressed psychopath cliché being real standouts, but also making the more sparse but explosive bouts of violence all the more shocking for their irregularity. It does suffer a hint early going on in that it does a lot of work to try and establish all the players in its expansive game and as a result, does lend itself to a hint of ‘so which one is he?’ but once it gets going, it doesn’t stop. The simplistic approach is supported by a clean but clear direction and cinematography that rarely uses anything more fussy than the appropriate choice of shot but also gives away nothing more than it needs to.

Ultimately, it is what you’d expect, it has a few more twists than the most boilerplate of gangster films but there’s nothing really that you haven’t seen in some ways before but within those stereotypes, you can hardly find a more accomplished approach to the material than this. Yes, it probably could have been more effective with a mild editing down of the third act but ultimately, it’s just as good as it needs to be. Without saying anything that could be considered a spoiler, the ending was enough to make me think that if the planned trilogy is still in the works, roll on part two.

Dir: Park Hoon-jung

Scr: Park Hoon-jung

Cast:  Lee Jung-jae, Choi Min-sik, Hwang Jung-min, Park Sung-woong, Song Ji-hyo, Kim-Yoon-seong, Na Kwang-hoon, Han Joo-kyung, Choi Il-hwa, Joon Jin-mo.

Prd: Han Jae-duk, Kim Hyun-woo

DOP: Chung Chung-hoon, Yu Eok

Music: Jo Yeong-Wook

Country: South Korea

Year: 2013

Run time:  134 minutes

New World is available on DVD and DHD now