Any film that opens with a snitch being force-fed a cement smoothie deserves some latitude to make its case, and the South Korean crime drama New World is no exception. Set in the scheming heart of a powerful crime syndicate, this stylish saga from Park Hoon-jung conjures a world where hardly anyone is who he seems.

Our fragile anchor is Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae), an impassive undercover cop who has spent eight years infiltrating the syndicate and rising through its ranks. Now, with the death of the chairman and a succession war looming, Ja-sung’s handler, Captain Kang (Choi Min-sik) sees an opportunity to destroy the organization from within. If only Ja-sung can remember where his loyalties lie.

Cloaked in the politesse of the boardroom and the golf course, New World is both less bloody and more thoughtful than most of its genre, the shifting-alliances plot becoming more engrossing as it progresses. When not caressing razor-sharp lapels, Chung Chung-hoon’s gleaming cinematography captures the cold threat of airports and clubhouses, his precision unfazed by an elevator jammed with bloodied bodies.

Jeanette Catsoulis
The New York Times