Welcome to a world of badasses, bullets, and blowin’ things up.
At Asian Crush, we love our righteous gangsters and hardboiled detectives. Here in our first SPOTLIGHT series are five titles you should check out from our library.
If you like your coming of age stories filled with ritual gangland executions and bloody corpses, HWAWI’s got your fix! In 2003, South Korean filmmaker Jang Joon-hwan made his directing debut with SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! Combining a little bit of everything from sci-fi to thriller, PLANET was a cult hit for Jang. He won awards on the festival circuit, took home Best Director at the Blue Dragon Film Awards, the whole nine yards.
And then, a decade passed without a film. Until 2013, when Jang returned lean, mean, locked, and loaded. HWAYI: A MONSTER BOY tells the story of a young man trained by a group of mob bosses from birth to become a stone-cold killer.
When a cop played by Daniel Wu saves the life of Nick Cheung’s gang leader, he’s sent into turmoil, forced to face violent scars of the past. THAT DEMON WITHIN is a tale of cops and crooks battling it out in the streets of Hong Kong.
DEMON director Dante Lam comes from a rich pedigree of Kick Ass Cinema. Trained under John Woo, the most influential figure in modern HK crime cinema. Writing about DEMON, Film Comment’s Grady Hendrix stated that “if any filmmaker is keeping the spirit of classic, red-blooded, over-the-top Hong Kong gun operas alive, it’s [Lam].” If you’re in the mood for your crime movies hard boiled, with a side of psychological intensity, check out THAT DEMON WITHIN.
A South Korean gangland tale set in 1990 Busan, NAMELESS GANGSTER was a box-office smash in its homeland. It follows Choi, a businessman wrapped in a drug trafficking plot with the mob. At a time when the government is trying to clamp down on crime, Choi’s forced to go to elaborate, violent measures. Throw in massive amounts of crystal meth and, as you can imagine, the shit hits the fan before long.
Starring OLDBOY star Choi Min-sik as the shady protagonist, GANGSTER took home Best Actor for his performance, as well as for the screenplay, and a Popularity Award (to Ha Jung-woo, playing a mob kingpin) at the 2012 Blue Dragon Film Awards. NAMELESS GANGSTER’s reputation has grown around the world. Seongyong Cho of Rogerebert.com called “2012’s best South Korean film,” and Jacob Templin compared the film to the work of American legend Martin Scorsese in Time. Doesn’t get much more G than that.
A landmark of South Korean cinema, FRIEND took one of the oldest stories in the gangster film book (childhood friends from the opposite side of the tracks, who can’t escape their fate) and gave crime movies new life.
With its tale of murderous bloodlust, heartbreaking betrayal, and karaoke, FRIEND put Yu Oh-seong at the top of the Korean movie industry, made Jang Dong-gun a marquee star, and rewrote the box-office record books.
For the last flick in this week’s crime movies spotlight, we go back to the battlegrounds of gangland Busan with BLOODY TIE. When a cop goes on the hunt to avenge his partner’s death at the hands of a mob kingpin, he teams up with a meth dealing fiend. And by the way, the mob boss has just returned. You can be sure this rodeo will end with a peaceful, taciturn farewell for all involved.