There is something about the evident brutality of Far Eastern Cinema when you compare it to Western classics like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard that grounds it in a more art-house context, rather than have this ability to shock the local audiences. That isn't to say that any form of violence is acceptable in a real level and that filmmakers would rather stage violence as a form of primal release to tap into the emotional frustrations of the times the audience is living.
One such example of this which is being screened at the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal is Kang Yun-Sung's The Outlaws, which was selected in 2017 in the Dubai and Macao International Film Festivals. It has won a couple of domestic awards and is certainly going to provide some intrigue and interest.
Based on a real-life incident that took place in 2007, The Outlaws focuses on the exploits of the Serious Crime Squad in Seoul, South Korea. Online reports tell of a total of thirty-two people being investigated for the vicious crimes, so it does seem to have quite a place in Korea police history, who formed the backbone of a Chinese crime syndicate and one individual who was smuggled into South Korea.
Led by a worldly and wise veteran officer Ma (Don Lee), the police are seemingly on the brink with resources stretched, thanks to the arrival of the Chinese Black Dragon Gang amidst the Korea locality. The film doesn't waste any time demonstrating the true brutality of what the gangs are capable of, thinking nothing of using an axe to reach the body parts they need to and stabbing any number of victims to show their strength.
Compounding the Squad's efforts comes in the form of senior officers, who have determined that Ma and his team only have another ten days to solve the case, and ensure they can restore order and decency to the district they watch over...
The Outlaws is a taut and tight piece of police drama, as bloody, brutal, profane and violent as anything to have emerged in the last ten years. Fans of Infernal Affairs and the work of John Woo will certainly get a lot from this production and those who might want to research the real-life incident it is based on may find a lot more brutal and shocking evidence, which is often different to when it comes to dramatising what we see on screen, as filmmakers sometimes have to tone down the violence to make it acceptable for viewing by the masses.
There are some well-staged fights and action - notably one sequence when a gang member lets off a fire extinguisher during a birthday celebration - and there are a few well-chosen moments of dark humour here and there, as is the norm for the type of film you can expect from the Far East film community.
Fantasia 2018 is clearly a solid foundation for The Outlaws to build an international fan-base on, and American audiences and beyond will embrace it like they will a Jackie Chan or John Woo film.
THE OUTLAWS / DIRECTOR: YOON-SEONG KANG / SCREENPLAY: YOON-SEONG KANG / STARRING: JIN-AH BAE, GWI-HWA CHOI, HYUNG-JOON IM / UK RELEASE DATE: TBC