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Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time ("Bumchoiwaui Junjaeng")

Quebec Premiere
  • South Korea
  • 2012
  • 133 mins
  • DCP
  • Korean
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection, New York Asian Film Festival 2012

"A smartly made gangster film that transcends its genre trappings" — Beth Accomando, KPBS

"The Korean mob film Scorsese would be proud of" — Jacob Templin, TIME

In October 1990, the Republic of Korea declared war on organized crime. Crooked businessmen and mafia kingpins were tracked down and thrown in jail, regardless of the immense power they might possess. The party was indeed over. This was especially true for Choi Ik-yun (Choi Min-sik) who had worked like a dog to get where he was. As he begins his extended stay in the shade, amends must be made.

It begins in 1982. Ik-yun is working as a customs officer at the port of Busan, living a modest life with his wife and kids while never hesitating to engage in shady activities that might send some extra cash his way. As he is looking to unload a drug shipment found in a container, he runs into powerful gangster Choi Hyung-bae (Ha Jung-woo), soon finding out that they are actually related. While his big mouth and (fake) good nature initially create problems with his new associate, he still manages to get accepted into the gang. He knows how to make the most of his exceptional charisma, not to mention his dangerous manipulation skills. Furthermore, he never gives up. While everyone disregards Ik-yun as a second-string fiddle, he is slowly becoming the band’s main conductor.

With titles like A BITTERSWEET LIFE (Kim Ji-woon) and BREATHLESS (Yang Ik-june), South Korea has a rich track record when it comes to gangster films. From now on, you can add NAMELESS GANGSTER to that list. Writer-director Yun Jon-bin, repeatedly praised for THE UNFORGIVEN, delivers a captivating tale that, much like MEMORIES OF MURDER (Bong Joon-ho), craftily depicts the dictatorial context of the 1980s. In fact, several songs from the decade permeate the excellent soundtrack composed by Cho Young-wook, frequent Park Chan-wook collaborator. If the majority of emblematic gangster flicks usually have a big-name cast, NAMELESS GANGSTER benefits from the casting of a dream duo that results in a most captivating duel. Ha Jung-woo (THE CHASER) calmly inspires fear as he exudes the presence of a godfather, while the masterful Choi Min-sik delivers another grand performance worthy of his memorable appearances in OLDBOY and I SAW THE DEVIL. NAMELESS GANGSTER undeniably equals any great mafia epic. While one may often think of GOODFELLAS during the screening, the film is never overshadowed by Scorsese’s masterpiece. Take our word for it.

— Nicolas Archambault

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