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Review: The Policeman’s Lineage – “Plays out like a feature-length TV pilot”

With the likes of Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook and Yeong Sang-ho, Korean cinema has enjoyed something of a ‘New Wave’ and purple patch that makes the release of any film featuring their alumni something to look forward to. So with Kyu-maan Lee’s cop thriller, The Policeman’s Lineage boasting The Handmaiden’s Cho Jim-woong and Parasite’s Choi Woo-sik, expectations are understandably high.

The film follows Choi Min-jae (Choi Woo-sik), a young and idealistic detective who is recruited by Internal Affairs to go undercover to investigate Park Gang-yoon (Cho Jim-woong), the head of a Serious Crimes Investigation team suspected of embezzling police funds and corruption. As the two cops work together, loyalties become blurred and their connected past is revealed, coming back to haunt them.

The film goes from exposition to a bit of business, exposition to a bit of business with hardly a breath, but somehow still fails to feel thrilling. Precious little time is given to develop the protagonists outside of being vehicles for the plot, which makes it difficult to care about what happens to them.

The film treads well-worn ground but is entertaining enough, if you like watching police chasing bad guys with distinguishing scars. The Policeman’s Lineage offers little originality other than a coffee-based MacGuffin that would have felt more at home being used by The Scarecrow in a Batman movie rather than a straightforward cop thriller.

The two lead performances are decent without ever shining. But in the actors’ defence, they are given little to shine with in a script that is more concerned with twisting back on itself every other scene, rather than developing characters. Eventually, it becomes difficult to determine who we are meant to root for and what the film is trying to say. It feels genuinely confused rather than ambiguous by design.

The Policeman’s Lineage plays out like a feature-length TV pilot, setting up a first season, rather than a stand-alone cop thriller. It joins a huge catalogue of passable cop thrillers that have nothing much new to offer. And given the talent involved, it feels like a real opportunity to deliver something original has been missed.

The Policeman’s Lineage is out On Digital, VOD and Cable from 7th June 2022.

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