What inspired you to make the film?
I met real-life detectives while prepping for the film The Unjust and they had this implicit passion that appealed to me. They really believed that their jobs helped make the world a better place. On top of that, The Unjust and Berlin were both darker films, so I wanted to make my next movie a fun project. I wanted to re-live my childhood joy in obsessing over classic action flicks from the ‘80s, and wanted to create a film with that element.
What did you focus on the most for the movie?
The Veteran is a story about veteran detectives who fight a losing game,
and gain a bit of ground. I made Seo Do-cheol, a go-getter detective, the protagonist, and the film shows him pulling all the weight. I wanted the characters to be believable, more so than any of my past work, so I really honed in on the casting for this movie.
What are some of the critical differences between The Unjust and The Veteran?
Think of The Veteran as the antonym of The Unjust. The Unjust exposes the dark side of corrupt cops and detectives, while The Veteran is the stories of people who believe they can change the world with their jobs, and try their best to do so. This is not an act done to become a hero; it is the offering of a shoulder to someone else because you feel strong enough. It is also the story of the veterans in the regional investigative unit who pursue good in the world.
Do you have any scenes straight from real life?
The detectives in the narcotics unit inspired me to do the scene where the detective tosses the handcuffs to the suspect and tells them to handcuff themselves. I used their real-life experience where they threw the handcuffs through a broken window and told the suspect to step out wearing them and they actually did so.
What’s the dynamic between Seo Do-cheol and Jo Tae-oh?
Seo Do-cheol plays a character who’s widely feared, and does not back down from tracking down the arrogant third-generation heir. He has no grandiose aim to become a hero or to contribute to social justice. I wanted to portray him as an uncle-like character, who always provides a helping hand to those in need. On the flipside, a third-generation heir like Jo Tae-oh is a character stuck in the system, which in his case is the power struggle within his family. I tried to stay true to re-creating an environment that forced the characters to become even more evil than they are as individuals.
How was the atmosphere on set?
The actors were responsible and put their best foot forward without my having to step in. I watched them create an energy that exceeded my expectations, and though I am the director, I was able to watch from the sidelines and greatly enjoyed being able to do so. I don‘t think I’ve ever had it easier on set before. From the sequences on set to encouraging his juniors, Hwang Jeong-min was very attentive to everything during the shoot; while the other actors involved were fun and serious when need be. Thanks to them, I believe this movie stands out from my other work.
What was the concept for the action sequences?
Whenever I make a movie, I have a general concept of the film. The concept is molded around the characters. The details of the action scenes are determined based on the character’s style of movement. In The Veteran, the style of the action scenes is spectacular and gratifying. Dare I say it? They are a classic action form. I wanted to show the action sequences so that you could feel the impact. I also wanted the audience to enjoy watching the fights. In the middle of the swift transition between action scenes, I sometimes interspersed it with some nonsensical humor. Near the latter half of the film, when tensions are high, I wanted audiences to feel a rush of catharsis at the climax of the story.