South Korean film “The Policeman’s Lineage” is probably one of the most tedious police procedurals I have ever encountered at movie theater during several recent years. While I did not care much about its main characters mainly defined by their rote genre clichés and conventions, I was frequently confused as it often failed to clarify to me on what is exactly going on among its main characters, and I only became more aware of numerous plot holes and contrivances strewn throughout the movie.
After the opening scene showing an incident which I still do not understand that well for its rather murky aspects, the movie begins the story with Min-jae (Choi Wooshik), who is your average rookie cop who has no doubt on his duty and principles. As one trial, he does not hesitate to give a testimony against his older partner because he did witness his older partner’s dirty tactics as they arrested one certain criminal some time ago, and that certainly makes him quite unpopular in his police department.
While he is initially ordered to stay low for a while, Min-jae is subsequently called by his direct boss in private, and his direct boss requests him to take a very sensitive internal case inside their organization. His direct boss and the internal affairs division have been focusing on a prominent superintendent named Kang-yoon (Cho Jin-woong) because they believe Kang-yoon is actually a dirty cop despite a series of high-profile achievements on the surface, and they are going to have Min-jae infiltrate into Kang-yoon’s team as its latest member.
Considering his current circumstance, Min-jae does not look like an ideal candidate for the infiltration into Kang-yoon’s team, but his direct boss chooses Min-jae for a certain personal reason. Min-jae has always been trying his best in the name of his dead policeman father, and his direct boss offers a reward he cannot possibly refuse. There is a confidential police file on what exactly happened when his father died, and his direct boss promises to Min-jae that he will give Min-jae that file once their covert internal investigation is over.
As Min-jae accordingly begins his first day in Kang-yoon’s team, he sees lots of suspicious things from Kang-yoon and several cops working under him. While these cops often look more like thugs, Kang-yoon does not hesitate at all to show his rather showy lifestyle to his new team member. Besides his expensive vehicle and attires, he also lives alone in a neat modern apartment, and that apartment is full of numerous expensive stuffs except one room where he has been working on a certain big case.
That certain big case is involved with some big-time drug kingpin who is about to introduce the latest kind of drug into the country, and Kang-yoon looks quite determined to stop this big criminal by any means necessary, but there is something quite suspicious about his ongoing investigation. It seems that Kang-yoon has been associated with this big criminal’s chief competitor for a long time, and it is quite possible that he is actually helping that competitor behind his back. After all, where did he possibly get all that money for his suspiciously luxurious lifestyle?
As suspecting Kang-yoon more and more, Min-jae keeps searching for any incriminating evidence against Kang-yoon, but, to his bafflement, he only finds himself at the dead end again and again. It looks like Kang-yoon has been protected and sponsored by some powerful people somewhere up in their organization, and things becomes more complicated for Min-jae as discovering how much Kang-yoon has been actually associated with Min-jae’s father, who, not so surprisingly, turns out to be not as clean as his son has believed.
The movie, which is based on Japanese novel “Blood of the Policeman” by Joh Sasaki, attempts to juggle these and many other story elements together, but, unfortunately, it miserably fails as merely trudging from one predictable moment to another. While there are a few unexpected plot turns, they are not delivered well enough for generating dramatic impacts, and several actions scenes in the film are rather sloppy and distracting due to shaky camerawork and scattershot editing. Distracted more and more during my viewing, I often scratched my head as trying to discern its several main characters’ motives behind their actions, and I felt more urge to check out that Japanese novel, which, as far as I know, is much more complex in its far wider scope.
Although Cho Jin-woong and Choi Woosick are surely good actors, they are hopelessly stuck in their flat archetype roles, and that is particularly disappointing for Choi, who recently got a big career boost thanks to appearing in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film “Parasite” (2019). In case of several other notable cast members in the film including Park Hee-soon, Kwon-yul, and Park Myung-hoon, they are also regrettably under-utilized, and Park Myung-hoon, who incidentally also appeared in “Parasite”, is sadly forced to look too silly and crazy everytime he appears on the screen.
On the whole, “The Policeman’s Lineage” is a dissatisfying failure for more than one reason, and I was further depressed by the fact that this is incidentally the first South Korean film of this year for me and many other South Korean audiences. At least, we are only going through the first week of this year now, and I really hope that we will soon get better South Korean films for forgetting this passable dud.