Twelve years after the hit film Friend was released, Kwak decided to make a sequel that would bring back Yoo Oh-Seung as Joon-Suk. Seventeen years after being convicted of ordering the hit on Dong-Su, Joon-Suk has been released from prison. The world around him has changed and it is this generational clash that begins to slowly affect his well-being.
However, upon meeting a young rascal named Choi Sung-Hoon while in prison, Joon-Suk serves as a mentor for the young man. Sung-Hoon comes from a totally broken family. His mother was in the same high school rock band as Joon-Suk’s ex-wife and it was during this time, she was pregnant with Sung-Hoon. She is in a years-long abusive relationship with her current boyfriend. The constant viewing of the abuse has influenced Sung-Hoon to go down the wrong path.
Upon his release, Joon-Suk has learned his former underling Eun-Gi has taken over the gang on behalf of the ailing chairman. Eun-Gi learns of Joon-Suk’s release and soon, a power struggle between the two begins. Joon-Suk attempts to get answers for why Eun-Gi had betrayed him by killing Dong-Su. Eun-Gi attempts to get Joon-Suk to go to Thailand in order to gain more power. However, the rightful heir to the “throne” refuses and when Sung-Hoon is released, the duo hatch a plan to take back what is rightfully Joon-Suk’s, until the dark secret that bestows Sung-Hoon may drive a fateful wedge in the friendship between the elder Joon-Suk and the young Sung-Hoon.
For this follow-up to the film that made him a household name, Yoo Oh-Seung truly shows that twelve years after returning, he has a sense of comfort in the role of Joon-Suk. It is clear so much has changed in the seventeen years that Joon-Suk was imprisoned. Interestingly enough, even in prison, he is highly respected and this is apparent when a prison guard signals the arrogant Sung-Hoon to see Joon-Suk.
As for newcomer Kim Woo-Bin, he has the look of someone who is arrogant and only caring about himself. As Sung-Hoon, it is apparent he isn’t really looking for anything bigger in his life. As a matter of fact, he tends to have daredevil like attributes in his actions. As we can see in the opening of the film, a young Sung-Hoon befriends a new kid (who grows up to be a monk no less) and watches as his mother is beaten by her pot-smoking boyfriend. He loves his mother but cannot stand the abuse and this leads him to going down a path of violence. It is upon meeting Joon-Suk that he finds a comfort level of when it is necessary to attack and when not to attack. However, he holds a secret that could potentially destroy the new friendship he has with Joon-Suk.
For some reason, the sequel doesn’t stand out quite as well as the original film. The reason could be that in an attempt to intersperse the generations of the organization, there are flashback sequences set in 1963 in which Jin Joo-Mo plays Joon-Suk’s father, mafia founder Lee Chul-Ju. A rascal and a fighter, he attempts to make peace with the Japanese Yakuza for control of the docks in Busan, Joon-Suk’s father decides to ally himself with the Yakuza under the condition that he forms his own organization and make peace. As much as the flashback scenes were interesting, they were not a key necessity in the film. It felt more forced rather than flowing. It was different seeing this technique used in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Infernal Affairs III (2003). However, it was more of a forced and unnecessary here.
In addition, the original film’s major asset was the chemistry between the cast of characters. Here, the chemistry between Yoo Oh-Seung and Kim Woo-Bin doesn’t have that spark as he had with his predecessors. Instead of being a nostalgic tale of friendship and loyalty between friends, this was more of a routine gangster drama that are dime a dozen. When Martin Scorsese directs a gangster film, it is his sense of nostalgia and chemistry that makes the films work. While Kwak impressed us with his original film, it felt like he was more pressured just to churn out the sequel without using any real depth that makes the original film work.
Friend II: The Legacy is not a totally bad sequel, but it has a different perspective and in turn, expect something more routine without any depth.
WFG RATING: B-
A Lotte Entertainment production in association with Michigan Venture Capital, Trinity Entertainmen, and JCon Company. Director: Kwak Kyung-Taek. Producer: Kim Byung-In. Writers: Kwak Kyung-Taek and Han Seung-Woon. Cinematography: Yoon Juh-Wan. Editing: Park Si-Mon.
Cast: Yoo Oh-Seung, Kim Woo-Bin, Joo Jin-Mo, Jang Young-Nam, Jung Ho-Bin, Seon Ho-Jin.