An energetic Korean crimer, charged with solid performances and strong action sequences, “Running Wild” sees vengeful justice defenders trying both sense and violence. Despite solid commercial elements, this promising first feature by Kim Seong-su failed to fully ignite on January release, reportedly due to poor marketing. However, the film should do well in other Asian territories and, after a dash through Asian-themed fests, is likely to become a cult item on ancillary.
Fast-paced yarn essentially begins as the lives of three characters intersect. Proclaiming himself redeemed, freshly paroled gang boss Yu Gang-in (Son Byeong-ho) reinvents himself as a Christian family man to make an open bid for a political career. However, he secretly trades on his knowledge of the shady dealings of established politicians.
Coinciding with Yu’s release, smooth legal prosecutor Oh Jin-woo (Yu Ji-tae) returns to Seoul after a three-year exile in the boonies. It was his investigation that placed Yu in jail and created too much heat for local pols.
Meanwhile, Jang Do-yeong (Gweon Sang-woo) is a scruffy, hotheaded police detective who regards the rulebook as a troublesome impediment to justice. When his half-brother, Lee Dong-jik (Lee Jung-mun), is released from stir on the same day as the crime boss, Jang vows to keep his wayward sibling on the straight and narrow, for the sake of their dying mother (Lee Ju-shil).
When Lee is stabbed by Yu’s minions, the manic Jang pledges to bring the perp to justice. Pursuing the same quarry, but utilizing opposing methods, the renegade cop and the meticulous prosecutor are placed on a collision course.
Adrenalin is kept pumping with good action sequences and expert cutting between strands. Unfortunately, the thrilling opening chase through oncoming traffic not only foreshadows the finale but also blithely spoils its denouement. Another narrative flaw is the “revelation” that Lee is Jang’s half-brother — something viewers almost know from the beginning.
Otherwise, pic has the excitement and velocity of a runaway train. Performances are powerful throughout, and Gweon, who apparently did his own stunts, is explosive as the cop edging toward vigilantism.
Helmer Kim occasionally flirts with flashy techniques like split screen, but is content to take a back seat to the actors when they’re supplying enough fireworks. Classy photography favors moody metallic blues.
Korean title literally means “Wild Beast.”