When you think of gangster movies you’ll automatically start thinking about movies like The Godfather, Scarface and Goodfellas. They are all movies made quite a while ago. Although Hollywood still produces them they have become a rare breed. The genre is still very alive in South Korea and it has produced some interesting ones that are worth checking out (A Dirty Carnival and A Bittersweet Life come to mind). Nameless Gangster is the type of gangster movie I love where it’s not really about violence (although that is present), but about the relationships between characters.
Choi Ik-hyun (Choi Min-sik) is a corrupt customs officer who isn’t earning much for his work, but by letting specific things slip through or sometimes cracking open containers he makes some nice money on the side. As corruption within the custom offices is cracked down upon he sees his steady income threathened. He meets up with a gangster (Ha Jung-woo) and because Choi Ik-hyun knows a lot about Korean traditions and family connections manages to work his way up within organised crime. He knows so many people that he is able to talk his way out of things or get something arranged he will benefit from. He’s a fast talker, but with that comes a problem, because he hasn’t earned respect from other because he’s a violent gangster who’s feared.
Choi Min-sik (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, I Saw the Devil) is one of my favorite actors who I’m not afraid to compare to De Niro and Pacino and he plays his role exquisitely. He injects sympathy into his role and even though his character is living the life of a gangster he still feels vulnerable. Ha Jung-woo (The Yellow Sea, The Chaser) has already proven he is a great actor and proves it again, portraying a charismatic gangster who has got his big mob under control and is not afraid of conflict. Nameless Gangster feels like a historic movie as it shows the crackdown on organised crime (even though I don’t know if it is actually based on a real life events). A good gangster movie always has drama in it and this movie offers a lot of it. If you are looking for another excellent Korean movie (besides the other ones mentioned in this review) you should check it out.