Righteous Ties

Director: Jang Jin (Murder, Take One, Someone Special, Guns and Talk)

Chi-sung (Jung Jae-young) is the tough number one enforcer of the gang with a quick unflinching knife and even faster kicks. He has been a member of this gang for ten years and when his boss asks him to teach someone a lesson, Chi-sung follows orders. After stabbing one such fellow in the stomach just enough to hurt but not enough to kill - he gets sent to prison for seven years and follows the code by refusing to rat out his boss. In prison he is shocked to meet up with Soon-tai (Ryu Seung-yong), a childhood friend who had been the main enforcer of the same gang before being sent away but everyone thought he had been executed but not yet, only forgotten about. The two of them renew their old friendship and after Chi-sung takes out a prison bully with a running across the table kick, he becomes legendary within the prison walls.

On the outside though things are quickly changing the boss finds it expedient to order Chi-sung to be killed in order to appease some outside partners in crime. When this attempt fails, Chi-sung realizes he has been abandoned by his boss and when his parents are brutally beaten, he knows he needs to get out to settle a few scores. But the new enforcer of the gang is Joo-joong (Jung Jun Ho), the third member of the ring of childhood friendship with Chi-sung and Soon-tai. This inevitably leads to a conflict of friendship vs. loyalty vs. revenge.

The film is an odd mix of drama, action and comedy. While most of it is a straightforward dramatic gangster narrative, it occasionally breaks into short interludes of comic relief that feels like it is going against the grain of the film. These moments tend to distance the viewer from the unfolding drama of the film because while everything else feels generally realistic, these scenes are much too whimsical and absurd to feel at home in this movie the freak prison break being the prime offender. At its heart though this film is about friendship, loyalty and betrayal and the pressure the gangster life places on their code. Where do your loyalties lie to friends or your organization how can you be loyal to a group that forgets or betrays you once your usefulness is gone. It generally works quite well here and Jung Jae-young is terrific as the not overly sophisticated gangster who has to face these questions and find answers at the end of a sharp knife.

My rating for this film: 7.0


Reviewed: 04/07