The Unjust

부당거래 (Korea, 2010)
119 minutes, DCP, Korean with English subtitles
Directed by: Ryoo Seung-Wan
Starring: Ryoo Seung-Beom, Hwang Jung-Min, Yu Hae-Jin

Strap yourselves in. Longtime NYAFF favorite, director Ryoo Seung-Wan (City of Violence, also screening in this
year’s festival), may be best known for his action movies but with THE UNJUST he’s delivered the best movie of his career, and his brother, Ryoo Seung-Beom, is on hand to deliver the performance of a lifetime. Like Serpico or The Wire jacked up on amphetamines, THE UNJUST is a nightmare of twisted bureaucracy, failed government, and sprawling corruption. For anyone who’s ever believed in truth, justice and the rule of law, this anti-thriller is like a bucket of acid to the face.

Seoul is paralyzed with fear after a rash of schoolgirl killings, but fortunately the National Police Agency has shot and killed
a suspect. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong suspect, and so the wheels of justice grind into motion. Captain Choi (Hwang Jung-Min), a stalwart cop with but one flamboyant criminal patron, is assigned to bring in a killer — any killer — for the six o’clock news. “Forget the process,” his supervisor says. “We need results.” But when Choi crosses paths with ambitious and deeply, hideously corrupt prosecutor Joo-Yang (Ryoo Seung-Beom) — and their respective criminal patrons become embroiled in a turf war — these two supposed “officers of the law” turn mortal enemies and throw down in a comically petulant death match of the bought and the bossed, with the victims forgotten and the patsy a piece of raw meat to be torn apart between them.

After the failure of his Dachimawa Lee at the Korean box office, director Ryoo Seung-Wan says he chose to re-group, and examine human nature and the drive to succeed at all cost. What he found isn’t pleasant. Ryoo Seung-Beom (The Berlin File) is alternately hilarious and horrifying as the megalomaniac public prosecutor, who’s a long way from those guys on Law & Order as he ignores every rule in the book. Echoing films like Anatomy of a Murder, THE UNJUST is a black, bile-infused indictment of the South Korean criminal justice system and of our own carnivorous instincts to succeed at all costs.

Monday July 1, 3:20 PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets