This elite squad is a lot like the Dirty Dozen, but there are only four of them. Fortunately, Don Lee counts for at least eight guys—eight really big guys. The old team of convicts is reconstituted to capture several far worse criminals in Son Yong-ho’s The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos, the feature sequel to the hit Korean TV show, which opens this Friday in New York.
Big bad Park Woong-cheol has been given a two-day furlough to mourn the death of his best friend, one of the last old school, socially responsible clan bosses. As luck would have it, he will be available to return to the crooks-catching-crooks task force that has been called back into service to catch the high-profile criminals who just escaped in the Fugitive-style opening action sequence.
Sadly, Lt. Yoo Mi-young, one of their badge-holding comrades from the TV series, was badly injured in the attack, so it is personal for Park. At least their old commander, Captain Oh Goo-tak is back in charge, but the ailing copper is not long for this world. Naturally, there will be some tensions with the new recruits: Ko Yoo-sung, an overzealous cop and “Jessica” Kwak No-soon, a confidence trickster. However, they will all be on the same page when they realize one of their targets is the serial killer who seduced and murdered Kwak’s sister. Yet, there is probably even more pressure to re-capture No Sang-sik, a high-ranking mob boss, who had promised to reveal his secrets to Lt. Yoo.
After the initial escape, Reign of Chaos gets a little bogged down in exposition, but then it cranks it up again and never slows down. Frankly, this is a perfect vehicle for Don Lee (a.k.a. Ma Dong-seok), who is quickly becoming the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the modern era. His imposing physique cannot be missed (even by a blind man on valium), but it is his earnestness and “aw shucks” charm that really pop off the screen. He performs feats of strength and bashes more bad dudes (we can’t call them “bad guys”) than viewers can easily count without a hand-clicker, always in a way that is upbeat and entertaining.
Kim Sang-joong is a perfect counter-balance, playing Cap. Oh with world-weary gravitas. Just one look at his wrinkled brow can cause sympathy headaches. Kim A-joong also has fun vamping it up opposite Lee’s burly but Boy Scout-ish Park. Park Won Sang also has some nice moments as the cynical but honest copper, Jo Dong-sul. They all form quite a colorful ensemble who rather overshadow Chang Ki-yong, who is quite competent as the hot-headed Ko, but he just can’t compete with Lee and company.
Son stages some bigtime explosive action scenes and fully capitalizes on Lee’s skills and larger-than-life presence. In the process, he and screenwriter Han Jung-hoon manage to tell a reasonably complex crime story with two or three dozen significantly developed characters, as a nice bonus. This is a prime example of why South Korea is starting to eclipse Hong Kong as the world capitol of action filmmaking (sad old Hollywood is hardly even a factor anymore). Highly recommended for action fans, The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos opens this Friday (9/20) in New York, at the AMC Empire.