Review | Film review: A Violent Prosecutor – Hwang Jung-min out for revenge as a framed murderer
Strong performance by Hwang holds together a film with too many implausible plot twists to match the slickness of two other recent Korean thrillers about high-level corruption, Inside Men and Veteran
Hwang Jung-min stars in the title role of A Violent Prosecutor, a vividly acted and all-too-conveniently plotted revenge drama directed by first-time filmmaker Lee Il-hyung. An expected hit in South Korea after the success of thematic predecessors Veteran and Inside Men, both slick crime thrillers with storylines about high-level corruption, this film arguably pales in comparison – although it’s also diverting enough as a popcorn movie.
Hwang plays Byun Jae-wook, a notoriously unorthodox prosecutor who regularly abuses his power and gives suspects a beating in the interrogation room. When one of them – a thug presumably hired by shady businessmen to infiltrate an environmentalist protest – dies in mysterious circumstances after one such questioning, Byun sees his supervisor, Yoo Jong-gil (Lee Sung-min), cut ties with him, while he is sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder.
The framed murderer soon figures out a way to survive behind bars, dishing out legal advice to guards in exchange of favours. But his world is turned upside down when, five years into his prison life, Byun meets Han Chi-won (Kang Dong-won), a newly incarcerated swindler who was also an acquaintance of the dead man. After Byun helps Han secure an acquittal, the two collaborate on a revenge plot that leads them back to Yoo, who is running for office.
The collusion among politicians, tycoons and the judiciary is apparently a source of much frustration for the South Korean audience, and Han’s manipulation of those privileged sectors in the name of justice is understandably escapist fantasy of the highest order for some. While its story takes more implausible turns than one’s suspension of disbelief is bound to accommodate, A Violent Prosecutor thrives on its stars’ performances. Hwang just makes everything tick.
A Violent Prosecutor opens on September 1
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