Wild" marks the debut of Korean director Kim
Sung Soo, apparently the protégé of 'Mr.
Vengeance' himself, Park Chan Wook (director of
for Lady Vengeance" and "Old
Boy"). Thankfully "Running
Wild" is not simply a retread of Park's own
work, and though Kim has somewhat unfortunately
chosen to add yet another to the ever growing
ranks of gritty Korean police dramas, he does at
least take a slightly different approach to the
The plot follows two men, the
down and out, violence prone detective Jang (also
in "Love so Divine") and Oh (Yoo Ji Tae,
also in the likes of "Old Boy"), an
officious prosecutor, whose fates become entwined
when they try to take down gang boss turned
politician Yu (played by Son Byung Ho, "R-Point").
In doing so, they find themselves battling not
only the usual hordes of thugs, but the system
itself, as Yu uses his wealth and connections to
worm his way out of trouble, manipulating the law
to his advantage and generally perverting the
cause of justice. Eventually, it becomes clear
that to take Yu down, Jang and Oh will have to get
their hands dirty, which predictably results in
tragedy and violence.
Right from the start, Kim
makes it clear that "Running Wild" is a
film with its glass half empty, introducing us to
the protagonists during decidedly low ebbs of
their lives, with Jang's mother on her deathbed
and Oh's wife demanding a divorce. The fact that
things pretty much go downhill for both men from
here should give you a good idea of the film's
tone, and Kim allows bitterness and cynicism into
almost every aspect of "Running Wild".
The script contains a great deal of musing on the
blind nature of justice, and the corruption so
often inherent in the application of the law,
though Kim never wallows in this, and actually
uses the theme to good effect.
This single minded bleakness
does help the film to stand out from other similar
efforts, and it manages to avoid falling into the
overuse of cheap emotion or too many of the clichés
of the buddy thriller genre. Strangely enough,
"Running Wild" is frequently quite
amusing, albeit in a dark fashion, with most of
the laughs coming in its satirical take on
politics. Yu makes for a menacingly amoral
villain, though he is quite obviously a symbolic
figure, making telling observations such as his
likening of gang turf to political constituencies.
The film is certainly violent
enough, and what it lacks in gunplay it more than
makes up for with brutal beatings, many of which
feature the ever-popular iron bar. The nihilistic
nature of the film makes the violence seem even
more vicious, especially towards the end when the
bullets finally start to fly. Visually, Kim has
clearly learned a few tricks from Park, and throws
in a number of gimmicky techniques. Most of these,
such as the split screen work, are quite
effective, although he does tend to overplay the
sudden zooms somewhat, quite obviously using them
to try and wring a few extra drops of tortured
emotion from the cast.
The only real problem with
"Running Wild", the film's basic lack of
originality aside, is the fact that at nearly two
and a half hours, it is somewhat on the long side
and could have used some trimming. The pace lags
at times, and though no aspects of the
multi-layered plot are actually unnecessary, the
film does lose its way around the halfway mark.
This having been said, the extended running time
does allow for a good amount of character
development, lending the film's dramatic elements
more weight than might be expected, and giving the
climax a nasty emotional punch.
The result is that while
"Running Wild" may well disappoint
viewers looking for slam-bang action or another
film in the mould of "Old Boy" or "A
Bittersweet Life", it works very well as
a decidedly cynical and dark police thriller.
Though the drawn out plot requires patience, the
ending is well worth the wait, and actually leaves
the viewer wanting more long after the dust has
settled and the blood has dried.