Michael Kang, director of arthouse hit “The Motel,” returns with a vastly different second feature. This time, Kang gets gangsta!
In order to further his career, young ambitious lawyer John Kim (John Cho, our new Sulu) takes it upon himself to defend a 14-year-old boy allegedly involved in a gangland shooting at a Korean “salon room” club. In doing so, John infiltrates New York’s Koreatown and immediately makes a dangerous alliance with young gangster Mike, who is also looking to further himself, but in crime. John tags along with Mike during his seedy dealings in the Koreatown underground, opening his eyes to a world he knew very little about, gaining details about the shooting along the way. Aiding him on the other end is the 14-year-old boy’s sister, Lila (Grace Park, that’s Lt. Boomer to you), who knows Mike and his whole gang, but has distanced herself from that crowd to lead a clean, honest life. She tries to help John as much as she can, but soon finds this difficult to do as she discovers that her brother may not be innocent.
We’ve all seen this type of gangland drama before where a member of the law moseys into town only. to found out he’s in way over his head. That and there being nothing really unique about the execution of the story makes this one a very casual watch – not as thrilling as one would hope for. So in terms of these gangland dramas, there have been many others that have had more of a dramatic kick in the pants than this one did.
However, boosting the film’s watchability are some great performances. John Cho is perfect as his awkward fish out of water character and Grace Park turns in a fine performance as the distraught sister, Lila. But the star of the film is Jun Kim as Mike whose on-screen charisma and volatile performance demands you to keep watching. This guy’s apparently a newbie on the scene and I can’t wait to see what he does next. I know I can’t be alone on that.
It’s a good film, watchable, but it’s really nothing special, which is disappointing after Kang’s stand-out film “The Motel.”