“Today’s Korea, whether looking at its entertainment, fashion or culinary scenes, is a society awash with fusion,” begins Pierce Conran at Twitch. Cinematic “hybrid experiments have frequently backfired, a surprising amount have been successful, including modern classics like Bong Joon-ho‘s The Host (2006) and Jang Joon-hwan’s Save the Green Planet (2003). Following a long 15-year absence from the director’s chair (though he has been active in other capacities during that time), scribe Oh Seung-uk returns with his own mashup, which has been described by its distributor as a ‘hardboiled melodrama.’ The Shameless is an investigative thriller, a moody noir, a brooding romance, a dark drama and an arthouse film all rolled into one. It may not be entirely successful in some areas but there’s no denying that its blend of genres is seamless and sophisticated.”
“While boasting all the conventional stylistic trappings of film noir, The Shameless is that rarest of beasts in which the femme fatale—here played by the ever-bankable Jeon Do-yeon—actually comes across more rounded and layered than the male anti-hero,” finds Clarence Tsui in the Hollywood Reporter. “With heartthrob Kim Nam-gil’s turn as a jaded cop looking more bored than hardboiled, Jeon—here playing a nightclub hostess—is left to carry alone what should have been a taut two-hander. Winner of Cannes’ Best Actress prize in 2007 for Secret Sunshine and a member of the competition jury last year, the Korean actress’ presence is perhaps the main reason The Shameless secured a berth in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes this year.”
“The Shameless is an indulgent and fun little crime melodrama that hits most of the right notes,” finds Raphael Deutsch at the Film Stage, where he sets it up for us. It’s “essentially a romance wrapped in a cop/crime aesthetic and narrative. The plot follows a dirty homicide detective Jung (Kim Nam-Gil) who is ordered to find and cripple a mob enforcer Park (Park Sung-Woong) who murdered a fellow organized crime member. In order to find him he uses Park’s mistress Kim Hye-Kung (Jeon Do-yeon) to lure him out of hiding.”
It’s “absorbing for the most part, but unable to produce the spark of Oh’s impressive debut,” Kilimanjaro (2000), finds Jason Bechervaise, writing for Screen.
Variety has just named Maggie Lee its chief Asia film critic and here she notes that cinematographer Kang Kuk-hyun “works in harmony with lighting director Bae Il-hyuck to veil Seoul’s suburban Sungnam district and Inchon in a dusky, permanent-twilight hue, reflecting the protagonists’ day-for-night routines while also capturing the sense of an emotional wasteland. Cho Young-wuk’s light piano score and occasional jazz riffs serve as grace notes for the grim story, with its regular outbursts of hardcore violence. Two of Korea’s top editors, siblings Kim Sang-bum and Kim Jae-bum, maintain a modulated but unfaltering pace that allows viewers to get under the characters’ skin.”