Serviceable crime drama with enough thrills and twists

Ma Dong-seok (above left) plays gangster Jang Dong-soo, while Kim Moo-yeol plays cop Jung Tae-suk in The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil.
Ma Dong-seok (left) plays gangster Jang Dong-soo, while Kim Moo-yeol plays cop Jung Tae-suk in The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil.PHOTO: CLOVER FILMS

REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER

THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL (NC16)

112 minutes/Opens today/ 3.5 stars

The story: One rainy night, the car driven by gangster Jang Dong-soo (Ma Dong-seok) is rear-ended. He is then viciously stabbed by the other driver, but manages to survive. It turns out he was attacked by an elusive serial killer, one whom cop Jung Tae-suk (Kim Moo-yeol) has been chasing. Despite having had run-ins previously, Dong-soo and Tae-suk pool their resources together and hunt down the killer. They agree that whoever catches the killer first gets to keep him.

Korean-American actor Ma, also known as Don Lee, has been on a roll since his breakout role in the hit South Korean zombie flick, Train To Busan (2016).

He has been starring in several movies a year, including action fantasy Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (2017) and sports comedy Champion (2018).

His profile is set to rise further as The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil has been picked for an American remake, with Ma reprising his role.

The beefy actor has a charismatic onscreen presence and is easily convincing as a ruthless crime boss, one who is quick to resort to violence to get what he wants.

Dong-soo is first seen hitting and kicking a punching bag - a routine workout, one might think, until the bloodied man inside is revealed.

Writer-director Lee Won-tae (Man Of Will, 2017) uses telling details to quickly sketch out characters.

But he also leaves key questions unanswered, which might be frustrating for some viewers.

As the hot-headed officer bent on getting his guy regardless of the cost, stage and screen actor Kim (A Muse, 2012) more than holds his own.

His boss is in Dong-soo's pocket and everyone else is dismissive of his serial-killer theory, leaving Tae-suk constantly on the verge of blowing up.

The identity of the psychopath is revealed fairly early on, but there are enough thrills and twists to keep one watching.

The tension in the film comes as much from the deep distrust between Dong-soo and Tae-suk as the urgency to find the killer and stop the murders.

The gangster and the cop are racing against each other, even as they race against time to nail the devil.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2019, with the headline 'Serviceable crime drama with enough thrills and twists'. Print Edition | Subscribe