From the exhilarating Extreme Jobs, the hard-boiled The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, to the buoyant Miss & Mrs. Cops, recent South Korean blockbusters love to see cops defying the procedure and delving into the grey area to get their job done. Son Yong-ho’s The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos attempts to capture the zeitgeist and reuse the working formula to score another hit. With cartoonish characters and an over-the-top presentation, the end-product feels like a combination of many other hits.
Adapted from the 2014 TV series, Bad Guys, you should not find it surprising that the premise is Suicide Squad-sy. Kim Sang-joong reprises his role in the series as Oh Gu-tak, an ambitious detective who will use any means necessary to catch criminals, even when it ambiguously blurs his moral line. When a new crime empire rises from the underground, Gu-tak enlists the help of three extraordinary prisoners to catch the crimelords in exchange for jail time reduction.
Alongside Sang-joong, Don Lee a.k.a Ma Dong-seok also reprises his role in the series as Park Woong-cheol, a former mobster who still manages to become the top dog in the prison. Like many other Dong-seok’s characters (in Train to Busan, The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, as well as in the original series), Woong-cheol is an overpowered gentleman with firm stature, powerful fist, and wide connection in the underground world. The other two prisoners are completely brand-new characters. Kim Ah-joong portrays No-soon, a witty con-artist who likes to be called ‘Jessica’ (has it anything to do with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite?); meanwhile, Jang Ki-yong is Yoo-sung, an explosive ex-cop with astonishing skills.
While Han Jung-hoon’s script is rich with familiar elements from the original series, the movie is surprisingly accessible for non-fans. With Yong-ho’s direction, the exhilarating moments get bloated into an almost two-hour story founded on prolonged action sequences. While Ma Dong-seok’s performance is terrific and his fistfight is enticing, it gets a little bit exhausting when the sequences get repetitive. On another note, the story often overindulges in the cartoonish elements that it neglects clarity of the procedural. You will be forgiven if you get lost in the scheme that Gu-tak and his ‘bad guys’ try to execute.
It’s quite fortunate that some deadpan humor helps to alleviate the fatigue after following some repetitive actions and the disorganized plot. You might feel that The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos attempts to put all the winning formula from recent Korean blockbusters into the plot. No wonder it is convoluted.
The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos aims for pure spectacles and it works as one. The final spectacle is ambitious as it attempts to replicate what The Night Comes For Us and some other movies had done before. What it lacks is the creativity to make the climax memorable.