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Another Public Enemy
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Jeong Joon-Ho (foreground) and Sul Kyung-Ku in Another Public Enemy.
AKA: Public Enemy 2  
Year: 2005  
Director: Kang Woo-Suk  
  Cast: Sul Kyung-Ku, Jeong Joon-Ho, Kang Shin-Il, Eom Tae-Woong, Byeon Hee-Bong, Jeong Gyoo-Soo, Lee Moon-Sik, Yoo Hae-Jin
  The Skinny: From director Kang Woo-Suk comes Another Public Enemy, a winning sequel to the 2002 box office smash. Sul Kyung-Ku returns for the follow-up, this time portraying a by-the-book prosecutor who finds himself in a battle of wits with a smarmy millionaire who thinks he's above the law. Although slightly overlong and a bit too "on the nose" in terms of its social commentary, Another Public Enemy is an engaging film that, quite refreshingly, takes a more old fashioned approach to its heroes and villains.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     In the old days, movies tended to be populated solely by obvious good guys and clear-cut bad guys. Eventually, newer generations of filmmakers came along and found such a black-and-white division to be too simplistic and began to introduce characters whose morals were painted in broader shades of gray. But even moral relativism gets a little boring when it's overdone, and considering how ethically ambiguous the real world is getting nowadays, it's no surprise that certain audiences might be longing for movies that feature heroes who actually stand for something. Anti-heroes may have their charm, but sometimes it's nice to have a hero who's willing to put it all on the line for no other reason than it's the right thing to do.
     Such a discussion leads directly into Another Public Enemy, Kang Woo-Suk's engaging sequel to his 2002 box office hit. In the first Public Enemy, actor Sul Kyung-Ku played Kang Chul-Joong, a corrupt bastard of a detective who'd lost sight of his responsibilities as an officer, and in the end, found some measure of redemption by bringing a brutal serial killer to justice. Sul returns for the sequel, playing a character with the same name, but this Kang Chul-Joong isn't quite so rough around the edges. Despite his low-paying salary, this Chul-Joong is an incorruptible public servant, a veritable paragon of virtue who takes his job as a prosecutor very seriously, even putting himself in harm's way to serve the public good.
     However, Chul-Joong's spotless reputation is challenged when he crosses paths with his former classmate, Han Sang-Woo (Jeong Jun-Ho), interim chair of the Myung-Sun Foundation. However, Sang-Woo didn't assume this position through hard work and dedication. It just so happens that his father died, and his brother, who was next in line for the position, was critically injured in a mysterious car accident not long after. Quite a coincidence, no? It seems Sang-Woo wants to use the foundation for his own personal gain, and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals: bribery, embezzlement, extortion, and even murder!
     Chul-Joong smells a rat, but encounters difficulties in conducting his investigation when people begin to question his motives. Not only does Sang-Woo have a charming public persona that keeps him above suspicion, but he and Chul-Joong have a history. Back in high school, Sang-Woo was able to buy himself out of whatever problems he got into thanks to the clout of his wealthy father. This fact went along way in motivating a young Chul-Joong to work hard to make something of himself. By becoming a prosecutor, he felt he could put dirtbags like Sang-Woo in jail, because no one is above the law. But with obstacles at every turn, can Chul-Joong bring down his slimy nemesis? Or will this public enemy's vast riches allow him to get away scot-free?
     Those hoping for a direct continuation to Public Enemy may be somewhat disappointed with this unrelated sequel at first glance. Gone is the well-meaning, but rough around the edges anti-hero of the first film and in his place is a self-assured, morally righteous hero of heroes. If this were a Western, Kang Chul-Joong would be wearing a white hat to let the audience know which side he's on. Consequently, Han Sang-Woo is basically evil personified, his mask of respectability allowing him to manipulate others to his own benefit. He's a man who has bribed and murdered his way to the top. Heck he even runs a guy over with his car just to show he's not a guy to be trifled with. Now critics may scoff that characters like these are unrealistic, but perhaps they are also too jaded to realize that these types exist outside the realm of cinema. In reference to Kang Chul-Joong, it's refreshing to see a character of moral fiber and with a clear sense of purpose. The fact that these two polar opposites are locked in a deadly game of cat and mouse only ratchets up the tension of the piece, creating a huge anticipation for the moment Sang-Woo finally gets his comeuppance. However, that expectation level may be too high. Sure, when Chul-Joong finally unleashes his fury on Sang-Woo, it's a cathartic experience, but perhaps not as exhilarating as one would hope considering all the build-up in the film's two hour plus running time.
     One aspect of the film that more than makes up for its narrative flaws is its depiction of male camaraderie in between the film's more stressful and serious moments. After appearing in the original, Kang Shin-Il returns in a similar role as the hero's gruff superior, a man who considers Chul-Joong a friend, but is also irritated by his prosecutor's "take no prisoners" attitude. Welcome moments of humor between the two (and the other members of the investigative team) help give the film a more personal touch that defies the seeming one dimensional nature of their characters. These comedic moments are well-timed and don't at all seem incongruous with the more serious stuff that has gone before. It should be noted that there are moments of high melodrama in the name of "brotherhood" and "duty" toward the end of the picture that, for some, may seem comic or even maudlin. However, those who've grown attached to the characters will perhaps find these moments to be stirring and triumphant, as finally the heroes cut through all the bull and do the right thing. Amidst all this male bonding, one can't help but notice the lack of women in this film. As with Another Public Enemy's predecessor, women serve as little more than secretaries and wives in the film. If someone wanted to do a feminist critique, they'd have ample fodder to do so. Just don't look at me though.
     Another Public Enemy is the kind of movie that should register immediately with American audiences. Although set in South Korea and supposedly dealing with facets of modern Korean culture, the film depicts a situation that should be familiar to most Americans. Switch the locales, and what you have is a celebration and critique of the American dream myth. Kang Chul-Joong is the prototypical self-made man, a prosecutorial Batman-type who's honed his mind and skills for one mission and one mission alone: to serve the public good. Han Sang-Woo, of course, represents the worst that can be created by such a society: a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth who has no interest in helping anyone but himself, and is unafraid to use illegal means to do so. Here, the director attempts to highlight the corruption of politics and business in Korean culture, an issue that gets emphasized to the point where it becomes a bit too obvious. For example, a social commentary-laced confrontation between the two leads basically spells out what should probably have remained subtext.
     While it's quite possible that Another Public Enemy will come across as too simplistic for some, it's sure to find an audience with viewers who don't equate "simple" with "bad." For those looking for a movie where heroes are heroes, men are men, and good triumphs over evil, one could do worse than to check out Another Public Enemy, a solid sequel that expands on its premise in new and exciting ways. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Woo Sung Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Audio Commentary by Director and Cast, Making Of Featurette, Interview with the Director and Action Choreographer, Interview with Cast and Crew, Images, teasers and trailers, TV Spots, Limited Photo Booklet
Also see: Public Enemy (KOREA 2002)
 

image courtesy of Woo Sung Entertainment

   
 
 
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