With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Ryoo Seung-wan's VETERAN reviewed; coming on DVD & Blu-ray

Well Go USA
 Veteran / Beterang
Written and directed by Ryoo Seung-wan
South Korea, 2015, 123 minutes

Veteran is the latest offering from the highly talented South Korean director Ryoo Seung-wan (The City of Violence, The Berlin File). It's a policier with plenty of action that also has a lot of deft comic touches. It is being release on Blu-ray and DVD this coming Tuesday, April 5th by Well Go USA. This review is based on watching the Blu-ray version.

The film, which did great business in South Korea (where it topped the box office for several weeks), made its North American debut as an official selection at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival last fall and subsequently made over $1M in the U.S. box office.

Hwang Jung-min (New World, Ode to My Father) stars as Seo Do-cheol, a veteran detective who works out of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. He's about as straight an arrow of a law enforcement officer as you'll ever come across. He also moonlights as a consultant for a detective drama on television.

We first meet him as he brings down an auto theft ring, in an action scene somewhat reminiscent of the premiere episode of Sammo Hung's American television series Marshal Law. Do-cheol is quite adept at dealing out a fistful of whoop-ass. But he also has a serious and tender side, especially when it comes to friends, such as Bae, a truck driver who assisted in bringing down the higher ups in the auto theft operation.

Hwang Jung-min as Detective Seo Do-cheol

After Bae is victimized by a sub-contractor of a huge corporation, Do-cheol comes up against Cho Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in, Tough as Iron). Tae-oh is the son of the chairman of the corporation (Song Yung-chang, The Attorney and The Good, the Bad, the Weird). With daddy under investigation, Tae-oh is likely to take over the business. His only problem is that he's a violence-prone psychopathic drug user! But having well-connected friends in politics and the upper echelons of the police force, he seems all but immune to arrest and prosecution.

The confrontation between the irresistible force of detective Seo Do-cheol's righteousness and Cho Tae-oh's immovable object of a protected, crazed corporate maniac makes for great viewing. And the numerous comic touches really make the mix all the more enjoyable.

Cho Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in), seated, gets advice from his main advisor

Hwang Jung-min gives a wonderfully modulated performance. He's tough in the action scenes, funny when called for, and touching when need be. He's supported by a wonderful cast that includes: Oh Dal-su (Oldboy, A Bloody Aria, Hindsight) as Team Leader Oh; Jang Yoon-ju, who makes her film debut as Miss Bong, a high-flying police officer; and Yoo Hae-jin (Tazza: The High Rollers, The Pirates) as Choi Sang-moo, Tae-oh's cousin and chief adviser.

Disc Specs
-- Audio and Subtitle Options:
  -- English 5.1
  -- English Stereo
  -- Korean 5.1 with non-removable English Subtitles
  -- Korean Stereo with non-removable English Subtitles
-- Trailers:
  -- Veteran trailer
  -- Trailers for five other CJ Entertainment offerings

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very, very, very highly recommended. I previously watched an online screener of Veteran for my review of its North American theatrical release (posted September 14, 2015), and can say that it was every bit as wonderful a watch the second time around. If CJ Entertainment had only seen fit to include some meaningful extras (which I have to believe are available on the Korean discs) instead of just a few trailers, the release definitely would warrant a 4 out of 4 star rating.

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