Overacting has a new
name thanks to Running Wild, a promising - but ultimately only average - cop thriller from the
Korean Cinema machine. Kwon Sang-Woo (Love So Divine)
is Jang Do-Young, a burnt-out cop whose zeal for justice
is demonstrated in kinetic style in the film's opening
action sequence. Jang chases a motorcycle-riding thug
in a car, runs him down, then beats the crap out of
him with whatever object is handy before collapsing
in a heap and letting out a primal scream. From his
physical twitches, defiant body language, and questionable
grooming habits, we can tell that this guy has issues.
He's more than a Cop Who Breaks All the Rules,
he's a driven man on the edge who could explode at
The problem is those
moments occur practically every 15 minutes, which
begs the ultimate question: why does anyone put up
with this guy? Jang is your prototypical loose cannon
cop, meaning he's a loner who solves cases via happenstance
and violence instead of good old-fashioned investigation.
His tendency to assault people gets a full workout
when his half-brother - who's also a gangster - gets offed. The trail leads to former gangster Yoo
(Son Byung-Ho), who's just out of jail and is looking
to reinvent his reputation and career by turning to
It's all an elaborate scheme,
of course. In reality, Yoo is still an amazingly evil
bastard with plenty of nefarious plans up his sleeve.
He seems to have fooled the general public, but investigator
Oh Jin-Woo (Yoo Ji-Tae of Oldboy) isn't fooled.
He has a major grudge against Yoo anyway, and enlists
the aid of Jang to take him down. Initially, he thinks
Jang is a pain in the ass - and he's right. Jang
has zero respect for authority, yells at everyone
in sight, engages in police brutality at the drop
of a hat, and will even attack fellow cops who are
just doing their jobs. Oh is probably on crack to
think that Jang will be an asset - but hey, if a
rabid attack dog is going to be on the loose, it might
as well be on your leash, right?
Running Wild has a few things going for it, namely a serviceable
storyline, great production values, and a pulse-pounding
Kenji Kawai score that amps up whenever a chase sequence
is in the offing. The film's plot recalls both Public
Enemy movies so it's low on the originality meter,
but Running Wild entertains thanks to its pairing
of charismatic Korean actors and the occasional gripping
moment. Yoo Ji-Tae has great screen presence, and
Kwon Sang-Woo embodies his beast-like cop decently.
The actor looks exceptionally run-down, though his
patently fake tan is incredibly distracting. Still,
the character initially engenders audience sympathy,
and Kwon does a good job of looking like he's one
step away from going postal.
But again, the problem
is he actually does go postal - a lot. Too
often, Running Wild attempts drama by having
Kwon Sang-Woo go unhinged, but the degree and frequency
of his fits of rage are simply too much. After the
umpteenth scene of Kwon randomly punching people and
screaming, "I'll kill you," one has to wonder:
why hasn't this guy ever been fired from the police
force? How the hell did he even get promoted to detective
anyway? The sheer audacity of his maverick cop persona
taxes the reality meter to the breaking point. The
action sequences are also a bit silly: most of them
operate off the idea that a guy flailing about like
an epileptic octopus is supposed to be dangerous.
It probably is dangerous in a "running with scissors"
sort of way, but the way it plays out onscreen becomes
less ferocious than unintentionally funny.
It's the overacting that
makes Running Wild more camp than classic.
Presumably, Kwon's overacting clinic was supposed
to be riveting or powerful, but after too much of
it, Kwon and the filmmakers simply lose the audience.
In the end, he resembles less a driven guy on the
edge than some sort of live-action cartoon character
that other people tolerate by trying to ignore. Director
Kim Sung-Soo should have been a little more controlling
of Kwon's performance - and if that wasn't working,
he could have tried sedatives, or maybe just a large
mallet. Still, even if Kwon had toned down his histrionics, Running Wild probably wouldn't have amounted
to anything more than an interesting yet thoroughly
average cop thriller. As it is, it's diverting, average,
and sometimes unintentionally funny. In some ways,
that could be a bonus. (Kozo 2006)