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Running Wild
Year: 2006


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Media
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
Numerous Extras

Director: Kim Sung-Soo
Cast: Kwon Sang-Woo, Yoo Ji-Tae, Son Byung-Ho, Ahn Kil-Kang, Kang Sung-Jin
The Skinny: Competent cop thriller that's all but destroyed by a rabid performance from star Kwon Sang-Woo. A well-made, interesting, but average thriller that earns camp status thanks to Kwon's overdone histrionics.

by Kozo:

Overacting has a new name thanks to Running Wild, a promising - but ultimately only average - cop thriller from the Korean Cinema machine. Kwon Sang-Woo (Love So Divine) is Jang Do-Young, a burnt-out cop whose zeal for justice is demonstrated in kinetic style in the film's opening action sequence. Jang chases a motorcycle-riding thug in a car, runs him down, then beats the crap out of him with whatever object is handy before collapsing in a heap and letting out a primal scream. From his physical twitches, defiant body language, and questionable grooming habits, we can tell that this guy has issues. He's more than a Cop Who Breaks All the Rules™, he's a driven man on the edge who could explode at any moment.

The problem is those moments occur practically every 15 minutes, which begs the ultimate question: why does anyone put up with this guy? Jang is your prototypical loose cannon cop, meaning he's a loner who solves cases via happenstance and violence instead of good old-fashioned investigation. His tendency to assault people gets a full workout when his half-brother - who's also a gangster - gets offed. The trail leads to former gangster Yoo (Son Byung-Ho), who's just out of jail and is looking to reinvent his reputation and career by turning to public office.

It's all an elaborate scheme, of course. In reality, Yoo is still an amazingly evil bastard with plenty of nefarious plans up his sleeve. He seems to have fooled the general public, but investigator Oh Jin-Woo (Yoo Ji-Tae of Oldboy) isn't fooled. He has a major grudge against Yoo anyway, and enlists the aid of Jang to take him down. Initially, he thinks Jang is a pain in the ass - and he's right. Jang has zero respect for authority, yells at everyone in sight, engages in police brutality at the drop of a hat, and will even attack fellow cops who are just doing their jobs. Oh is probably on crack to think that Jang will be an asset - but hey, if a rabid attack dog is going to be on the loose, it might as well be on your leash, right?

Running Wild has a few things going for it, namely a serviceable storyline, great production values, and a pulse-pounding Kenji Kawai score that amps up whenever a chase sequence is in the offing. The film's plot recalls both Public Enemy movies so it's low on the originality meter, but Running Wild entertains thanks to its pairing of charismatic Korean actors and the occasional gripping moment. Yoo Ji-Tae has great screen presence, and Kwon Sang-Woo embodies his beast-like cop decently. The actor looks exceptionally run-down, though his patently fake tan is incredibly distracting. Still, the character initially engenders audience sympathy, and Kwon does a good job of looking like he's one step away from going postal.

But again, the problem is he actually does go postal - a lot. Too often, Running Wild attempts drama by having Kwon Sang-Woo go unhinged, but the degree and frequency of his fits of rage are simply too much. After the umpteenth scene of Kwon randomly punching people and screaming, "I'll kill you," one has to wonder: why hasn't this guy ever been fired from the police force? How the hell did he even get promoted to detective anyway? The sheer audacity of his maverick cop persona taxes the reality meter to the breaking point. The action sequences are also a bit silly: most of them operate off the idea that a guy flailing about like an epileptic octopus is supposed to be dangerous. It probably is dangerous in a "running with scissors" sort of way, but the way it plays out onscreen becomes less ferocious than unintentionally funny.

It's the overacting that makes Running Wild more camp than classic. Presumably, Kwon's overacting clinic was supposed to be riveting or powerful, but after too much of it, Kwon and the filmmakers simply lose the audience. In the end, he resembles less a driven guy on the edge than some sort of live-action cartoon character that other people tolerate by trying to ignore. Director Kim Sung-Soo should have been a little more controlling of Kwon's performance - and if that wasn't working, he could have tried sedatives, or maybe just a large mallet. Still, even if Kwon had toned down his histrionics, Running Wild probably wouldn't have amounted to anything more than an interesting yet thoroughly average cop thriller. As it is, it's diverting, average, and sometimes unintentionally funny. In some ways, that could be a bonus. (Kozo 2006)

 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen