A more adventurous second half stops The Beast from plodding along as just another police procedural with a dark colour palette, though doesn’t quite do enough to make it anything other than passably diverting.
The Beast, directed by Lee Jung-ho, is a grim tale of blurred lines in the Korean police, and attempts to portray the murkiness inherent in getting down and dirty with criminals, as well as the corruption that comes along with that. This plays alongside the bureaucratic conniving inherent in the force itself, as people vie for promotions, using convictions in order to score points to further their own careers.
It certainly achieves this to an extent. The mood is set early on and is maintained throughout, with nary a smile on show as the characters scowl and grimace their way through close-ups, nostrils flaring in quiet anger at each other’s machinations. It doesn’t shy away from a realistic portrayal of the horrors of finding bodies, and generally does a good job of not glamourising the kind of work the officers have to do in their thankless jobs.
Otherwise, the first half of the film plays out fairly generically, the internal squabbles and unsolved case feeling more worthy of a police procedural TV show than a film. Some of the squabbling seems manufactured rather than especially realistic, but there’s enough to be passably entertained. The performances are all strong, especially Lee Sung-min in the main role as Captain Jeong Han-soo, whose internal conflicts and increasing pain you can see etched on his face through every scene.
This, coupled with a second half that goes down a more adventurous route than might have been expected, taking a turn for the truly dark, help to make the film feel more worthy of its 140 minute runtime. It’s nothing special, and sometimes a little too keen on playing to common police thriller tropes, but there’s enough conviction behind it to make it watchable.
Dir: Lee Jung-ho
Scr: Lee Jung-ho
Cast: Lee Sung-min, Yoo Jae-myung, Daniel Choi, Lee Sang-hee, Jeon Hye-jin, An Si-ha
Prd: Oh Sun-il, Song Ji-eun
DOP: Joo Sung-rim
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 140 mins
Signature Entertainment presents The Beast on Digital HD from 6th April