Public Enemy
Gonggongui Jeog
review by Carrie Gorringe, 20 June 2003

Seattle International Film Festival 2003

The South-Korean crime film Public Enemy (Gonggongui Jeog) takes viewers into a more sophisticated realm of problem solving than William Wellman's 1931 classic could have imagined.  How can scruffy Detective Kang (played to the hilt by Soel Kyung-gu), who's always coming under fire from Internal Affairs for his unorthodox methods, convince anyone that the immaculately-tailored and upwardly-mobile fund manager Mr. Cho (Lee Seong-jae) is nothing more than a common sociopath who cold-bloodedly murdered his parents because they were about to interfere with, as he saw it, his right to make money by using theirs?  At best, all Kang has is circumstantial evidence and a hunch that Cho is the guilty party.  To compound the issue, a second, seemingly copycat, murder takes place, making Kang's assertions against Cho seem almost unlikely.  Kang's aggressive manoeuvres against Cho to force a confession get him demoted, but he still keeps investigating.  Eventually, one small fragment of evidence enough to place Cho's well-enameled alibi and lifestyle in jeopardy falls into Kang's hands, and he's not slow on the pickup.  Director Kang Woo-Seok takes a well-crafted script and unabashedly runs with it, taking audiences through a 138-minute drama that, in lesser hands, could have been an exercise in tedium.  The real strength of Public Enemy lies in the shrewd, yet basically-drawn class conflict that permeates the plot and the charisma of the two lead actors, who literally embody their characters' ambitions.  There are genuine moments of nail-biting tension, as Kang and Cho go about their psychological pas de deux, each one waiting for the other to crack under the strain. As Cho sadistically ups the ante on Kang, Kang, much to Cho's surprise and eventual horror, grows stronger.  The finale is a well-choreographed twenty-minute slugfest, filled with appropriate touches of black humor. Thanks to its advantages, this Public Enemy is a film that rises above the conventional.


Seattle International Film Festival:

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Directed by:
Johnny To

Starring:
Simon Yam
Suet Lam
Ruby Wong
Maggie Siu
Eddy Ko
Hoi-Pang Lo
Raymond Wong
Jerome Fung
Frank Michael Liu

Written by:
Kin Yee Au
Nai-Hoi Yau

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.

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