Tuesday, June 07, 2022

The Policeman’s Lineage

This Korean cop thriller is based on a Japanese novel and tries for some serious old school Infernal Affairs-style Hong Kong vibes. For third-generation cop, Choi Min-jae, the line between right and wrong is straight as an arrow and clearly demarcated. For his new boss, Park Kang-joon, that line is wavy and fuzzy, but fortunately he always has an innate sense of where it is. Choi is not so sure, which makes his new assignment rather tricky in Lee Kyoo-man’s The Policeman’s Lineage, which releases today digitally.

Choi just blew a prosecution on the stand, because he would not lie or dissemble regarding the rough treatment of the accused. He would not appear to be a good candidate for Kang’s team on paper, but Internal Affairs transfers him, to serve as their undercover source anyway. They know Kang will take Choi, because he has a connection to the naïve cop’s father.

It turns out the death of Choi’s father remains surrounded in rumors and innuendos. Both Kang and AI will try to play him, by promising to reveal all. However, as Choi fils pursues his investigation of Kang, he finds plenty of controversy and departmental politics, but not the smoking guns he expected.

does not quite rank with the best of Korean thrillers, but for the most part, it is respectably hardboiled and entertainingly cynical. Bae Young-ik’s adaptation of Joh Sasaki’s novel tries a little too hard to over-complicate the narrative and all the behind-the-scenes secret cabal maneuvering sometimes feels a little too pat and forced.

On the other hand, Cho Jin-woong, who was so terrific (and rather creepy) in
A Hard Day and Bluebeard, is spectacularly hardnosed and unflaggingly intense as the morally flexible Kang. He just radiates trouble (the good and bad kinds). Choi Woo-shik (of Parasite) looks like he should still be in high school, but he keeps up with everyone well enough during the gritty action scenes. Plus, Park Myung-hoon is amazingly scummy as the crime boss Kang thinks he is using as a source.

Lee helms with a fair degree of style and keeps nearly everyone’s loyalties and motivations sufficiently shrouded. It definitely works at what it sets out to do and should keep fans of Korean thrillers coming back for more. Recommended as some undercover cop-work meat and potatoes,
The Policeman’s Lineage releases today (6/7) on VOD platforms.