Korean crime films really seem to love the old, opposites attract, buddy scenario. Call it the Lethal Weapon syndrome. Recent films like Public Enemy and Memories of Murder play up the formula to hilt, as does this film Running Wild (2006).
The opposites attracting each other are scraggly, rough and tumble, break the rules cop Detective Jang (Kwon Sang-woo- Once Upon a Time in High School, Volcano High) and prim and pressed, by the book Prosecutor Oh Jin-woo (Yu Ji-tea- Oldboy, Natural City). Already, right off the bat, I cannot make their descriptions sound anything other than generic. ‟He's a little bit country. He's a little bit rock n' roll‟- it really is that basic. You've got your hot-head and your cool-head. Together they make for a lukewarm crime picture.
Martin Riggs... er... I mean, Detective Jang has a flagging career. You know, man, he don't play by the rules, plus his mother is in the hospital, and his wayward half brother who fell in with the mob just got released from prison and doesn't seem to want to get out of the criminal life. Co-incidentally (and plot convenient) his half brother's gang boss Yoo (Son Byung-ho) is also released on the same day. His hood half-bro's post-prison scheme is to frame Yoo, who despite his own imprisonment has made enough charitable dealings to convince the public he has pure intentions of legitimacy, even going so far as to run for political office. The extortion scheme fails and Jang's half-bro is killed. Detective Jang makes it his business to bullheadedly wage a one man war against Yoo.
Prosecutor Oh doesn't buy Yoo's supposed new path in life and is convinced he has done nothing but make his seedy business more secretive and used power and money to wedge his way into the political world through payoffs and intimidation. When Oh and Jang's paths cross while gunning for Yoo, the two become unlikely allies. Our bottomed-out heroes have wrecked their family lives in their pursuit of justice. Jang wants to frame/beat up every suspect they get, while Oh reigns him in and shows Jang the more savvy and paperwork driven path. The two dedicate themselves to bringing down the big villain, but politics and the system fight them every step of the way.
Visually slick, first-time director, and Park Chan-wook protege Kim Sung-soo delivers a serviceable, but routine Korean crime flick with a decidedly corrupt system slant. It's a familiar viewpoint, good men with good intentions let down by the system they serve because of the labrythine and unwieldy laws and behind the scenes manuvering. It was a theme that was also very big in 70's crime cinema, from Dirty Harry to The Taking of Pelham, 1,2,3, The French Connection and Serpico. Modern Korean cinema has taken up the mantle and focused it through the countries own particular view.
Formula doesn't normally bother me. I love all kinds of genres that follow pretty standard, interchangeable plot/character frameworks- horror, exploitation, film noir, kung fu, and the like. Running Wild was an entertaining film, but it makes the fatal flaw a cliched film just cannot survive. That flaw, is that it lacks the right energy and imagination to smooth over the cliches. Instead of bright characterizations and a pulsing rhythm, it takes itself far too seriously and goes for heavy drama and tired hysterics, two humorless avenues that make the lack of originality all the more apparent. Its easy to forgive your Dirty Harry archetype when he's giving a foam at the mouth angry interrogation of a lowlife perp, less so when he's getting blubbery by his sick mothers bedside as she gives him the ol' ‟thumbs up‟ gesture. ‟*cough*cough* Go get em' for me, son *cough*cough‟. I would normally give Kim Sung-soo credit for how he uses a genre film to reflect the class and political problems in Korean society, but, he doesn't make the same statements that other recent Korean crime films have already made with the exact same good cop/bad cop/ criminal center points.
The DVD: KD Media, this is a REGION 3 ENCODED DVD.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Just a bit of a mixed bag here. Overall it is a pretty high end transfer with generally good details. Contrast levels appear fairly rich and black but come across as a bit too dark in some of the lower light scenes. Likewise, the sharpness is relatively crisp except for a scene or two that exhibit some slight softness. Colors are nice and the cinematography sticks a decidedly cool-hued, urban feeling. Technically there is some ever so minor aliasing that will be noticeable to viewers with swankier home theater set-ups.
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 Surround. Korean language with optional English or Korean subtitles. Great soundtrack with a beefy score and excellent sound fx. The mix is pretty good, though the surround is mainly utilized with the scoring and the fx comes across a tad too centered. The subtitles are not perfect and contain a few grammatical errors and flubbed English like, ‟Whoever say something to me. They are Dead.‟
Extras: Disc One- Audio Commentary. It is in Korean only with no subs, so I do not know who is on it. I'll assume it is some sort of Director/Actor combo. Disc Two- Several featurettes: Pre-production (6:36), Characterizing (7:00), Making Of (25:51), Action Sequence (25:26), CGI (5:05), and Original Score (5:01). --- Deleted Scenes. Rough, with timecodes and optional director's commentary. --- Stills and Poster. --- Trailer and Music Video.---Premiere Footage. --- Directors Short Films (26:48), with director intro.
*Unfortunately there are no English subtitles on any of the extras, making this extra-packed disc not very friendly for anyone who cannot understand Korean.*
Conclusion: This, the Special Edition Directors Cut, runs 143 minutes, as opposed to the theatrical cut which was 124 minutes. Really, I think this DVD is only purchase-worthy for fans of the film. I didn't enjoy it enough to justify it as an expensive import, blind purchase.