Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Public Enemy

Sequels are always tricky. On one hand, you've got to give people what they liked from the first film, but on the other hand you have to give them something else. It could be going bigger, with flashier special effects, action sequences, and just more in general. It could be a change in direction, with taking care to bring insight into characters that might not have been obvious before. As a fan of Public Enemy, the Korean action dark comedy, I was excited to see what would happen with Another Public Enemy. It takes an approach I'm not sure I approve of, it makes it respectable.

So Kyung-gu Sol is back as Gang - or Kang, in these subtitles - being promoted from inspector to prosecutor. He is, again, confronted with a rich man who believes he is above the law - Han, played by Jun-ho Jeong - though he is a bit less brutal with his murdering, and is mostly involved with a complicated money laundering scheme. In the new film, we see Kang have a newfound respect for the law and due process - though not so much respect that he doesn't step outside it frequently, especially at the end. As a result, he's a bit more respectable, but less funny and interesting, and less compelling to watch. The old crew is back, but they're not up to their old antics.

It's a case where I might actually have a different opinion if it weren't the sequel. The political maneuvering as Han tries to get people off the case is interesting, though he's a less interesting character than he might be. The attempt to sell off property in order to get rich in America is a lot less sinister than it might be, and Han just isn't that compelling of a character, being a one note bad guy overall.

Unfortunately, with the dialed up respectability the action is dialed way down, with the majority of the maneuvering taking place in offices as people talk politics. It's actually not a bad premise overall, but I felt disappointed by it, as it trades the original film's tension and intrigue with much less tense and much less intriguing moments.

Another Public Enemy isn't bad, per se, but I couldn't help but think that it had been neutered. It doesn't have the teeth it once did, and making Kang respectable makes his character less interesting overall. It makes me think that maybe sequels generally aren't a good thing, because you can't have the same thing twice, but if you deviate too far it ends up being a disappointment. Perhaps Public Enemy should have been left alone.

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