Much of the advance hype for the Korean crime thriller The Policeman’s Lineage revolved around the casting of Choi Woo-sik, one of the stars of Bong Joon Ho’s acclaimed film Parasite and Cho Jin-woong from Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden. That kind of casting certainly got my attention.
Choi Min-jae (Choi Woo-sik, Parasite, Train to Busan) is a third-generation police officer, following the tradition of his grandfather and his father who was killed in the line of duty. But despite his short time on the force he’s already become disillusioned by the realities of the job, especially the corruption. That leads him to testify in court against his own partner, something that doesn’t make him popular with the other cops.
It does however catch the attention of Hwang In Ho (Park Hee-soon, Revenger, Monstrum) from Internal Affairs who wants to recruit him for an assignment. They suspect that Park Gang-yoon (Cho Jin-woong, The Handmaiden, The Outlaws), despite his record of high profile arrests, is on the take and want to place him in his unit. As an incentive, he offers him the chance to see the full files related to his father’s death.
The Policeman’s Lineage certainly doesn’t have the most original of premises. We’ve seen all of these elements many times before, not just in Korean but in films from America, and Britain, as well as in films from Hong Kong like Infernal Affairs which revolutionized the genre twenty years ago. They’re pretty much universal themes with some regional variations and to stand out a film has to either do a great job of retelling it or find a new variation on the theme, preferably both.
“I wanted to show a new side of me after Parasite. The script called for me to carry out some rough action,so I had the urge to take on this project.”Choi Woo-sik
And that’s where The Policeman’s Lineage runs into trouble. The script by Bae Young-Ik, based on the novel “Blood of the Policeman” by Japanese author Joh Sasaki, doesn’t do anything different with these elements. Park tells Choi that he and his father knew each other and had a history. But as he becomes involved in Park’s seemingly obsessive pursuit of high-end drug supplier Na-young Bin (Kwon Yul, Anarchist from Colony, Finding Mr. And Ms. Right) he begins to develop a respect for him. This leaves Choi in a very conflicted position.
Similarly, the film’s director Kyu-maan Lee (Wide Awake, Children…) isn’t bad and the film certainly looks good thanks to cinematographer Kang Kook-hyun (The Shameless, The Prayer) and production designer Chae Kyoung-sun (Squid Games, The Fortress). Jang Young-gyu (The Wailing, Train to Busan) adds a solid score to the mix as well, But none of it is exceptional enough to stand out from the crowd. Especially with all of the excellent crime films that have been coming out of Korea.
The acting is, as expected, excellent and is the strongest part of The Policeman’s Lineage. The cast gives it their all and manages to do more with the material than one might expect. But that can carry the film so far when the rest of it is average.
If you are a fan of Korean crime films, then there’s certainly no reason not to watch The Policeman’s Lineage. It’s a reasonably entertaining thriller that manages to stay interesting despite its two-hour running time causing it to occasionally drag. Just don’t expect anything more than a mildly diverting watch.
The Policeman’s Lineage will be on Digital and VOD platforms on June 7th, from Echelon Studios. You can check their website for more information. And if you’re in the mood for more mystery, FilmTagger has some recommendations for you.