[Herald Review] ‘Untouchable Lawmen’ meets crazy with crazy

By KH디지털2

Film boasts ballsy setup, quirky, charming characters, but adds up to little more than comedy sketch

  • Published : Aug 25, 2015 - 17:59
  • Updated : Aug 26, 2015 - 23:13

“Untouchable Lawmen” starts out with the ballsy, if oversimplified, notion that those who evade the law deserve to be captured through law-defying measures. Under the mantra of “meeting crazy with crazy,” the film initially seems headed in the direction of an exhilarating Robin Hood-esque hero narrative, where the quirky “good guys” deal a satisfying blow to the hypocritical “bad guys.” 

Choi Daniel (left) and Im Chang-jung in "Untouchable Lawmen" (Pan Cinema)

The film begins as the police, after a string of failed attempts to capture the “legally untouchable” criminal Kang Sung-gi, decide to resort to radical measures. On the surface, Kang is the politically influential and socially revered chairman of a charitable foundation. Behind the public eye, he is the maniacal leader of a religious sect and chief-in-command of a criminal organization.

The police thus decide to deploy two agents who, though socially unhinged, are deemed capable of producing surefire results. Lee Jung-jin (Im Chang-jung) is a criminal profiler who has no regard for social niceties, relies largely on instinct over reason and physically assaults criminals at the spot of arrest. His logic is “You’ll be out of prison soon, so I’ll beat you up now,” referring to the easy pardons that political prisoners are granted in Korea.

Lee is partnered with Jo Yoo-min (Choi Daniel), a sex addict detective who, though excellent at apprehending even the most elusive of criminals, additionally seduces their wives and numerous other women in the course of his duties. 

Together, the two are as relentless and obsessive in their pursuit of justice as their target is of wealth and power. Im delivers once again with his trademark skills in portraying the eccentric rogue, and Choi depicts with gusto the impudent, rambunctious sidekick.

Still from "Untouchable Lawmen" (Pan Cinema)

This introduction of a new, twisted breed of heroes who are nearly as psychopathic as their foe is, while by no means unprecedented in Korean police action cinema, exciting. Propelled by contempt for authority figures who revel in self-glorification and frustration with the irrational workings of a society that simulates rationality, the film sets the tone for what could have been an irreverent, unapologetically escapist action flick that gratifies the itch for justice where justice is due.

But the striking characters and the audacious setup soon get lost in an incoherent plot that falls short of the film’s initial energy. The action sequences are chaotic and flaccid; the antiheroes end up being as ineffectual as the powers that hired them, relying more on blind luck and outbursts of anger than shrewd skills.

And while “Untouchable Lawmen” entertains with witty dialogue and the actors’ sharp comedic timing, the anticipated catharsis is largely absent -- the plot does not commit to the escapism it initially promised.

The denouement, in particular, surrenders itself to something little more than a comedy sketch, rendering the movie more “Dumb and Dumber” and less “Bad Boys.” 

“Untouchable Lawmen” opens in local theaters on Aug. 27.

By Rumy Doo (bigbird@heraldcorp.com)