Director: Kang Woo-Suk
Cast: Sol Kyung-Gu, Lee Sung-Jae, Kang Shin-Il
When Public Enemy was released early this year, it was well received at the box office. The critical response was generally positive too. One of the major factors that leads to its success is probably the brilliant cast - Sol Kyung-Gu and Lee Sung-Jae. In fact, Sol did manage to capture the Blue Dragon best actor award with his outstanding performance in this film.
Featuring a typical "catch the thief" storyline, the plot does not consist of too many surprising elements. Detective Kang (Sol Kyung-Gu) is a violent cop who prefers to investigate in an extreme manner. His enemy is Cho (Lee Sung-Jae), a witty and composed murderer who is terribly cold-blooded. The two characters are a total opposite. Kang has a dirty mouth and a broken family, while Cho always acts like a gentleman and has a lovely family. The movie spends a lot of time on some seemingly unrelated and fragmented events to build up the personalities of Kang and Cho and intensify the comparison of these two characters. In the first forty minutes, the movie doesn't seem to have a focus at all, we are only exposed to detective Kang and Cho's daily activities, that it may even appear quite boring for some people. But it is instead a setup, it is like a time lock for the clash at the end. The conflict of the two characters are developed gradually from these scenes which results in the powerful and intense duel at the end.
Unlike most detective movies in which the focus is always the case itself, this film utilizes a great portion to depict the characters, especially detective Kang. This character is taken care of to the finest details. He is the pivot of the movie, almost all the supporting characters are employed to complement and balance his character. Detective Kang is glamorous because he never says die. Even though his behavior is outrageous and he does not like to follow rules and orders, his dedication to his job is honorable. It is such dedication that makes his character lovely and captivating.
I am not sure if director Kang Woo-Suk is a fan of Hong Kong cinema or not, but without doubt some scenes seem to have drawn some inspiration from Hong Kong movies. For instance, the scene when the knife expert is demonstrating his dexterity of handling knife is taken directly from Mr. Boo: Private Eye in which Sam Hui does the exact same move in a mini bus; The camera angle of some shots during the last duel also reminds me of what Bruce Lee does at the end of Big Boss. As a matter of fact, the creation of a violent cop is also a hallmark of Hong Kong cops movies. Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Danny Lee have all been casted as such roles many times before. If you are a fan of Hong Kong cinema, you should find this movie intimate and enjoyable.
Honestly speaking, the plot structure and the character development of this film do not actually provide too much surprise for me. It is definitely not as superb as I expected. Nevertheless, Public Enemy still has very high entertaining value as the director was able to turn some cliche-ridden characters and a mundane plot into something that is eye catching and glamorous. It simply has the power to keep you engaged. I have to admit that even though I did not find it surprisingly good or innovative, I did enjoy watching this movie and was fully engaged during the screening... In short, my little piece of advice is, don't expect too much and you will enjoy this movie more!
Cool guy(s) - Sol Kyung-Gu, Lee Sung-Jae
Reviewed by: Kantorates