Byun Jae-Wook (Hwang Jung-min) is a prosecutor who consistently oversteps his boundaries in search of the truth. He prides himself on being excessive in his methods, which usually involves beating suspects, in order to put criminals behind bars. He doesn’t see what he does as a bad thing because the people he’s doing it to are guilty and should be put away by any means necessary. During an interrogation with an asthmatic suspect, Byun seemingly goes one step too far and the next day the suspect is discovered dead. Byun is tried, found guilty and put away for 15 years. He suspects foul play is at hand but cannot prove anything. In prison, Byun meets many people who he himself put behind bars and because of it doesn’t have a very pleasant time. He decides to use his skills as a prosecutor to keep the guards, prisoners and even the prison warden on his side which, while not perfect, makes his life relatively comfortable but, more importantly, safe. A chance meeting with con-artist Han Chi-won (Kang Dong-won), who has a link to the past, gives hope to Byun that he can finally uncover the truth about the events that led to his wrongful imprisonment.
A Violent Prosecutor is a real clash of styles and personalities. It’s a serious crime drama with huge elements of comedy. This plays the stern-faced character of Byun, a man who’s angry and reserved due to his wrongly incarceration and betrayal against Han, the laid-back, easy going fool. When Byun realises Han might be the key to unlocking his case, a business partnership ensues. They both realise they need each other if they’re going to get what they want. Byun can use his knowledge to get Han off his charges and out of prison, but in doing so Han needs to work for Byun on the outside to build his case – to somewhat hilarious effects. Han manages to charm and chance his way through multiple situations to obtain information and evidence needed to bring the real criminals to justice. Through this, an unlikely friendship blossoms between the two, which offers a nice uplifting tone against what is generally a serious, plot-heavy film.
First time director Lee Il-Hyeong impresses here as he manages to balance the character driven plot well against the big set-pieces in the film. He is certainly helped by the fantastic performances by the film’s two lead actors as well as solid supporting performances from Lee Sung-Min as the corrupt Prosecutor running for office, Jong-Gil, and shady Min-Woo (Park Sung-Woong) who’s intentions are constantly unclear.
A Violent Prosecutor is a solid film. It’s not too original and seemingly has many influences that it wears on its sleeve, and that’s fine. It’s a lot of fun and that’s all you need.
A Violent Prosecutor screens in the SVA Theatre Friday, July 8th 6:15PM