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Ko - production in Busan
  • In Focus: Friend 2
  • by LEE Yong-cheol /  Nov 25, 2013


  • Directed by
    KWAK Kyung-taek
    Starring YOO Oh-seong, KIM Woo-bin, JOO Jin-mo, JI Seung-hyeon, JUNG Ho-bin
    Release Date November 14, 2013
     
    Friend 2 is the sequel to the 2001 blockbuster hit Friend. Attracting eight million spectators, Friend, along with Swiri and Joint Security Area(2000), powered the Korean cinema boom while boosting filmmaker KWAK Kyung-taek’s fledgling career to stardom. Its accomplishments were achieved by successfully appealing to viewers with a nostalgia for the past, masculine excess and by revealing a prohibited subculture. In other words, Friend was an over-romanticized male fantasy packaged as realism. Apart from its commercial success, Friend personally overshadowed KWAK Kyung-taek as his career continued to remain within the boundaries of Friend, even leading to a TV version of the film. Naturally Friend 2 leans on the glory of its predecessor. Although this may be true, this film should not be undermined as a film with no character of its own.
     
    Friend 2
    begins 17 years after where the previous film left off. Joon-seok, who admitted to ordering his friend Dong-soo’s murder, has spent a lot of time behind bars and now he is released to a world that is as unfamiliar to him as the criminal organization he used to lead. With his subordinate Eun-ki now practically parading as the boss, Joon-seok, a leader by nature, secretly embarks on a mission to subvert his current position and invites Sung-hoon, whom he had his eye on in prison, and Sung-hoon’s gang to join in his plan. Sung-hoon, who is Dong-soo’s son, willingly takes Joon-seok’s side, but when he discovers the truth behind his background, this creates great tension between the two.
     
    KWAK Kyung-taek, who presented a model for Korean-style gangsters through Friend, seems to have no intention of repeating the success of that film. While placing less focus on Busan’s accessible attractions as a coastal city, he attempts at taking a step closer to the core of the villains. The heavier weight of the film added through the episodes of Joon-seok’s father Chul-joo, who founded the criminal organization, is an example. On the other hand, this aspect, which is comparable to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II(1974), has become a vulnerable point for Friend 2 as Chul-joo’s episodes fails to merge into the general narrative and disappears from the film even before it can play any substantial part.
     
    Perhaps the crucial point of Friend 2 is its subversion of the theme of tight friendship and tragedy that was so important in the previous film. In a world where evil rules, Friend 2 shows how futile friendship can be, and because of this, Friend 2 is closer to Noir than the gangster genre. The collapse of Joon-seok and Sung-hoon’s relationship is due to their fatal inability to submit to anyone. If the previous film rode upon the lapping tides of emotion, Friend 2 unravels amongst chilling tension. This film may not go beyond the accomplishments and reputation of its predecessor, but at least the last two sequences of the film stands out as they resonate a sense of desolation with the irony of its title as the two villains walk away from each other, fated in the tragedy of an unattainable friendship.
     
    By LEE Yong-cheol(Film Critic)
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