New World tells the complex and intricate tale of an internal power struggle that breaks out when the chairman of South Korea's largest organized crime syndicate known as Goldmoon is killed in an apparent 'car accident'. Because Goldmoon is an amalgamation of several smaller clans, each want their own representatives to assume to the coveted position of chairman. There are only ever three real candidates who are in a position to vie for the position of chairman of Goldmoon. There's Jeong Cheong (Jeong-min Hwang), the carefree, aloof and flamboyant gangster who formerly headed up the Chinese descended faction of Goldmoon.
Then there's Lee Jung-gu (Seong-Woong Park), the supercilious and conceited gangster who was a part of the majority faction that came out on top of the merger. Even though he was second in command before the merger, he was relegated to merely being a director after the merger. Needless to say that Lee Jung-gu feels like the position should be his, given that he was the heir to the throne at one point in the distant past. Then there's Jang Soo-Ki (Il-hwa Choi), but he's more of a figurehead, a relic of the past more than anything else who holds no real power within the organization.
So it really comes down Jeong Cheong and Lee-Jung gu, who both hold considerable sway and power within Goldmoon. Jeong Cheong has his right-hand man at his side Lee Ja-sung (Jung-jae Lee) and the backing of the ever increasing Chinese Koreans, while Lee-Jung gu holds more power within the organization and he represents the more traditional Korean virtues which a lot of the old timers in the organization respect and admire.
New World has shades of other gangster movies like The Departed, Eastern Promises and Goodfellas, but it's not nearly the same as they were, so don't let any perceived similarities put you off seeing it. New World absolutely stands on its own. South Korea has been turning a lot of exceptional movies lately and New World is another, although it might be too subtle and too ambiguous for its own good. Jeong Cheong's trusted right-hand man, unbeknownst to him is actually an undercover cop that's been working on the Goldmoon case for going on 8 years now. Frustrated, paranoid and trapped in the clutches of the unscrupulous Section Chief Kang (Min-sik Choi), Lee-Ja sung is forced to continue working the case otherwise Chief Kang will blow his cover, and Chief Kang also wants him to help who he wants to become the chairman of Goldmoon, essentially manipulating the company from the outside.
New World is a slow burner, it's not action packed and it doesn't have the same sort of stylistic flair that a lot of other crime/gangster movies like The Departed or Goodfellas have. Nevertheless, New World explores the well worn themes of loyalty and deception in the gangster genre exceedingly well, although New World can take a little while to get going, but once it does, it's surprisingly gripping and intense. All the characters were very well developed and despite being a very complex movie, they were all given ample character development and that helped elevate the stakes, at least for me it did. It felt personal because all the players were well established throughout the movie, we get to know the players well. The acting is strong all around, the cinematography is effective and well framed and the script is very clever and plays out with a lot of suspense. New World is easily one of the better gangster movies I've seen recently, from anywhere.
New World could be hard to follow at times, characters motivations aren't always easily understood, and certain plot points are not always readily explained. While a movie like The Departed was always reasonably easy to follow, New World is not, you really have to be paying attention to the plot, but if you do, you will be rewarded. I notice that a common complaint nowadays is that if a movie doesn't spell everything out for you then it's lazy writing. If you feel like this then you probably wont like New World, but if you're willing to connect a to b, then I'm sure you'll appreciate all the narrative and emotional nuances of New World. Apparently this is the first movie in a planned trilogy too, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where they go from here.
Written by - The Sentry - 09/11/2014