The Merciless is “Korean noir” style film directed by Byun Sung-hyun and stars Sol Kyung-gu (Cold Eyes) as Jae-ho, a number two mobster boss currently serving time in prison. While serving his time he ensures that he has control over the inmates and he prison guards.
When new inmate Hyun-su (Yim Siwan) enters, he decides to do things his own way and stands out by not giving into anyone or follow any rules.It is at this point when then two meet and become partners-in-crime while in the prison and outside after their release.
Set in Busan, the film opens at a fishing port with Tarintino-style dialogue about fish and killing between two mobsters, just before one of them is set up to be shot by the other. Even at this point, Jae-ho is referred to as someone who kills his enemy while looking at them straight in the eye.
The main story follows Jae-ho and Hyun-su as they as they meet in prison, shown in a series of flashbacks, where Hyun-Soo first appears as a reckless new kid on the block after winning slapping with some of the other prisoners. Later we see Hyun-su save Jae-ho when he is nearly attacked. As the bond between Jae-ho and Hyun-su grows, we learn more about each both characters and Hyun-su reveals to Jae-ho that he is an undercover cop sent to infiltrate him. Hyun-su’s ruthless Chief Cheon (Jeon Hye-jin) has planted Hyun-su to infiltrate a drug smuggling ring operated by Jae-ho’s boss, Chairman Ko Byung-gab (Kim Hie-Won). Chief Cheon promises Hyun-su that his mother will receive a kidney transplant but when the circumstances change, so does Hyun-su loyalty and objective.As the two continue to operate together until the finale where the plot thickens and even more is revealed about the characters and their intentions.
The Merciless is a slickly packaged thriller with solid performances especially from Yim Si-wan and Sol Kyung-gu. The tone of the film echoes previous films in the genre such as Infernal Affairs and Reservoir Dogs but very much moves in its own direction with a complex plots which slowly all comes together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
The Merciless will be one of many films being shown at the London Korean Film Festival 2017 which takes place from 26th October to 19th November 2017.