A battle of wits combines with a story of redemption in this thrilling noir film from director Park Sung-Jun.
Lee Hwan was once a promising baseball pitcher who has had his career destroyed when he is implicated in a game-fixing scandal. Now a disgrace to the sport, Hwan finds himself working for a loan shark, Jeong Sang-Ha, after he mercilessly beats a loan shark who was supposed to have owed him his cut of the final deal that destroyed his career. After one job, Sang-Ha convinces Hwan to stay as he has a certain spunk that could be useful to the business.
Hwan opts to stay around and even finds love in Cha Yun-Su, a bartender for Sang-Ha’s local bar. After a meeting with Sang-Ha’s boss, Hwan is accepted into the family. As he rises through the ranks to become one of Sang-Ha’s most powerful enforcers, a misunderstanding threatens to break the bond between Sang-Ha and Hwan. Things become more complicated when out of nowhere, Yun-Su has disappeared. Thinking Sang-Ha may be responsible, Hwan sets a plan in motion to overthrow Sang-Ha, a decision that could potentially have its own consequences.
Set in the beautiful city of Pusan, this is a thrilling and modern day film noir that thrives on the lessons of money and power along with its eventual dire consequences. The film’s opening ten minutes showcase the events that will happen literally mid-way through the film. This was done to give the viewer a glimpse of our central character Lee Hwan, who is played by Lee Min-Ki in a sometimes very chilling performance. Hwan is clearly a character who has fallen only to rise and eventually find his destiny and Min-Ki shows how dedicated he is to make it in the dangerous world of loan sharks.
Park Sung-Woong plays it very cool as the man who brings Hwan in, Sang-Ha. He may not show much emotion, but he doesn’t necessarily need to as he proves to be cold and calculating when it comes to his job and even Hwan when the turning point hits. He is a true believer in change and will attempt to go to any lengths to ensure that change in imminent. As for Lee Tae-Im’s character of Madame Cha, she is there to be a love interest for Hwan and as for her dramatic performance, Tae-Im shows Cha as someone who one can tell, seems troubled but she will not explain why. She finds Hwan as a sense of security and he finds her as someone he loves.
The film’s major points in terms of the story is the twists that occur in the film, especially towards the last half hour. Just when you think the movie is going to end, a twist happens and one that helps drive the film. At times, the film does have a bit of a rushed feeling because it seems like that very last half hour squeeze everything in when it comes to the turning point of the story. However, despite this flaw, this is still an enjoyable thriller.
If you like the gangster and film noir genres, For the Emperor is one to definitely look for, thanks to a sometimes chilling performance by Lee Min-Ki and a cold and calculating performance from Park Sung-Woong.
WFG RATING: B+
Well Go USA Entertainment presents a United Pictures/OPUS Pictures production. Director: Park Sung-Jun. Producer: Lee Tae-Hun. Writer: Lee Yong-Su; based on the comic by Kim Seong-Dong. Cinematography: Cha Taek-Gyu. Editing: Kim Chang-Ju and Park Kyung-Suk.
Cast: Lee Min-Ki, Park Sung-Woong, Lee Tae-Im, Kim Jong-Gu, Jung Heung-Chae, Lee Jae-Won, Han Jae-Yong.