If you’re one of the millions of “Squid Game” fans patiently waiting for Season Two, catch Lee Jung-jae in a gem of a thriller from earlier in his career. Streaming now in North America is “New World”, a gripping Korean crime saga directed by Park Hoon-jung (“I Saw the Devil”) with excellent performances by “Squid Game”‘s Lee Jung-jae, “Oldboy”’s Choi Min-sik, and Hwang Jung-min of “Narco-Saints”.
Originally released in 2013, “New World” is a stylish gangster film that proves that Lee Jung-jae is not only a veteran of the big screen but has somehow also managed not to age in a decade. Set in the gritty underworld of modern Korean organized crime, the story follows Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae), as an undercover police officer who is torn between his duty to the law and his loyalty to his criminal “family.”
Ja-sung has spent eight years infiltrating a powerful crime syndicate called Goldmoon as an undercover agent. The action begins when the leader of Goldmoon dies suddenly leaving a vacuum of power at the top. As Ja-sung rises in the ranks of Goldmoon, he forms close relationships with members of the organization, including the charismatic Jung Chung, and becomes increasingly conflicted about his allegiances.
As tensions within Goldmoon escalate, Ja-sung must navigate a complex web of alliances, betrayals, and power struggles to achieve his ultimate goal: taking down the entire organization and bringing its leaders to justice.
One of the strengths of “New World” is its well-developed characters. Lee Jung-jae delivers a powerful performance as Ja-sung, the conflicted undercover officer who struggles to maintain his identity and morality in a world of corruption and violence. Choi Min-sik is equally impressive as Ja-sung’s ruthless handler, whose steel might be undermined by his lack of sensitivity. Hwang Jung-min is also noteworthy as the ambitious Jung Chung, whose charisma and jeong threaten to steal the show.
The plot of “New World” is also expertly crafted, with plenty of twists and turns that teeter on the edge of being a bit too clever. But then the film’s narrative straightens just enough to keep the viewer engaged and happily guessing until the very end. The movie’s corrupt and violent world of organized crime is a stylish one with well-dressed gangsters who seem to be as comfortable in a board room as they are knifing each other in abandoned warehouses. The tension and suspense of being a mole build steadily throughout the movie, leading to a climactic finale that is surprisingly satisfying.
The cinematography and direction of “New World” are also noteworthy. Park Hoon-jung’s direction is slick and sophisticated, and the movie’s action sequences are expertly choreographed and executed.
“New World” is a thought-provoking Korean crime thriller that is well worth watching, though viewers should expect the violence and gore that can be expected with films of this genre.
In addition to the outstanding performances, “New World” is notable for its exploration of the themes of loyalty and power. The movie raises important questions about the nature of loyalty and the extent to which individuals are willing to compromise their values for the sake of a greater cause. It also explores the corrupting influence of power and the often brutal world of organized crime.
Lee Jung-jae, Choi Min-sik, and Hwang Jung-min deliver outstanding performances, bringing to life a complex story that is both thrilling and thought-provoking. If you like crime thrillers, good suits, or if you are just a fan of Lee Jung-jae, “New World” will not disappoint. With notes of “Internal Affairs” and “The Godfather”, “New World” is a remarkably moving film that leaves a lasting impression.
“New World” can be seen on Amazon Prime.