The Outlaws REVIEW: Ma Dong-seok strikes again in this electrifying festival favourite

The Outlaws REVIEW: Ma Dong-seok strikes again in this electrifying festival favourite

0 comments 📅07 November 2017, 13:46

Director: Kang Yoon-sung
Release: 27 October 2017 (London Korean Film Festival)
From: M-Line Distribution
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: 18

Cultural tensions are at a high in intense police drama The Outlaws as no-nonsense detective Ma Suk-do (Ma Dong-seok), and Seoul’s Serious Crime Unit, go up against a group of Chinese-Korean gangs in the heart of the capital. Based on real events where the police arrested 32 gang members over the course of a few days in 2007, Kang Yoon-sung’s debut feature is a straight-forward cops vs thugs tale that hits all the right notes thanks to its gritty realism and stellar cast.

At the head of that cast is Ma Dong-seok who seems to be right at home in his role as Suk-do, he’s a character that fits Dong-seok’s physique and wit very well and it’s clear from the offset why Yoon-sung wrote this character with the charismatic actor in mind. Cinephiles will probably recognise Dong-seok from his supporting –but no less memorable- role in last year’s Zombie romp Train to Busan, and in The Outlaws he plays a similarly plain-speaking character who knows how to throw a good punch.

On the other side of the battlefield is Yoon Kye-sang, the idol turned actor who is almost unrecognisable as the ruthless gang leader Jang Chen. With his flowing locks and menacing demeanour, Kye-sang turns Chen into a quiet and unsettling villain. He keeps you on your toes because you don’t know when he’ll crack, and when he does we are bombarded with some gruesome adrenaline-charged fight scenes as he favours sledge-hammers, hatchets and knives to do the talking for him. The film is laced with tension, but there is also a good balance with its comedy, which comes namely from Dong-seok’s character. When he is off screen the film does lose its momentum somewhat, mainly because the gang members are not nearly as appealing as he is.

Kang Yoon-sung certainly has an eye for stunning visuals as his use of colour clearly shows. Each scene is dyed in a specific tone, illustrating which gang is on screen and, as a result, giving the audience a chance to easily distinguish who’s who, even when there’s a lot happening in front of them.  It’s the action scenes that are the most enticing, though, as Yoon-sung uses elaborately detailed choreography and interesting backdrops to set the stage for his fights between the police and criminals. The final fight sees Suk-do and Jang Chen go head-to-head in an airport bathroom, and the actors’ electrifying presence paired with the clever use of multiple camera angles makes sure it’s one of the best scenes in the film.

Reviewed by Roxy Simons

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