Korean thrillers have been going strong all year and that run shows no signs of slowing down with the release of Asura: City of Madness, a star-rich hardboiled noir that recently bowed at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Jung Woo-sung plays the unethical cop at the center of a corruption-fuelled tale of small town redevelopment who works on the side for the amoral mayor while district attorneys push hard to turn him into a mole.
From Beat director Kim Sung-soo, Asura dials up the grime and claustrophobia in a tale of scheming men that foregrounds frequent violence, which often reaches absurd and homuros levels. Following hot on the heels of Veteran, Inside Men and A Violent Prosecutor, the film hits a sensitive vein as it aims at those who misuse their stations of power in Korea.
Jung takes on one of his more complex roles in the lead while The Wailing co-stars Hwang Jung-min (as the mayor) and Kwak Do-won (lead district attorney) bring dynamic energy to their parts. Some may balk at the excessive violence, more for its repetition than goriness, or the film’s relatively one-note and unoriginal themes, but in the performance and styptic departments, Asura is never less than entertaining. Though not up to the standard of the latest offerings from Na Hong-jin and Kim Jee-woon, Korean thriller fans will have no trouble finding something to like here.