The Policeman’s Lineage and Special Delivery – the talking cupboard

Back when Korean dramas and movies were not widely available in my country, I made a promise to myself that I would support them when I could afford to splurge some money on them, be it watching movies in the cinema or subscribing to legal streaming services. I can proudly say that I am now able to do both since more Korean movies are being screened in my country and more streaming services featuring Korean content are readily available online. This year around, I am continuing my resolution back in 2020 that was to watch every single Korean movie being screened locally over here in my country (which was cut short thanks – but no thanks – to the pandemic and endless lockdowns). I got the chance to spend my own money on two movies recently: The Policeman’s Lineage and Special Delivery. Spoilers ahead!

The Policeman’s Lineage (경관의 피, lit. “Officer’s Blood”) is a movie adapted from a Japanese novel Keikan no Chi (警官の血, lit. “Blood of the Policeman“) penned by Joh Sasaki. There is also a Jdrama adaptation of the novel with the same title, but I am neither familiar with the original novel nor the Jdrama, hence I went in without much idea about the plot, but I do remember the title being mentioned in passing by Choi Woo-shik in an interview during his round of promoting Time to Hunt back in 2020.

The movie follows the story of a police officer Choi Min-jae (Choi Woo-shik), who carries out his duties by the book despite his young age. He catches the eye of an Internal Affairs officer, Section Chief Hwang In-ho (Park Hee-soon) and he is recruited – or more like roped into – for a covert investigation around the death of a police officer related to Park Kang-yoon (Jo Jin-woong), a Head at the Metropolitan Investigation Unit. Although Min-jae does not accept the ‘offer’ at first, the deal also includes access to a secret report pertaining to his father, also a police officer, who died in the line of duty. For that reason, Min-jae begins his new duty working in Kang-yoon’s unit, but he is nabbed to follow after Kang-yoon right on his first day, in his first of many’s trips to meet Kang-yoon’s informants. But then, Kang-yoon tells something that Min-jae isn’t prepared for: that he knew Min-jae’s father.

Their first outing together does not end well, with Min-jae breaking out of his cover to arrest the informant, only to be stopped by Kang-yoon. He is clearly uncomfortable due to his nature of sticking to the rules, but Min-jae is slowly being intrigued by Kang-yoon; still, that does not stop him from snooping around and doing his secret investigation on his own superior, who is leading a lavish lifestyle despite living on the minuscule pay of a policeman’s wage. As Min-jae continues to escort Kang-yoon as his driver, he starts to see that Kang-yoon is probably more than a mere corrupt policeman.

Kang-yoon’s target is Na Young-bin (Kwon Yul), a gold spoon criminal who manages to escape long prison sentences several times due to his connections, much to Kang-yoon’s ire. Although he is apparently funded by people from the top of the police organization themselves, Min-jae sees that Kang-yoon has to outsource when it comes to the shortage in his investigation funds by taking loans from loan sharks. Surprisingly, Kang-yoon uses strange means of paying the loans off down to the last cent, without taking even a penny for himself. Min-jae also finds out that Kang-yoon was also there when his father died, and unlike him, who was proud of his father’s job despite the mixed feelings he had towards his father, Kang-yoon was ashamed of his own father, a drug addict and an ex-convict.

Min-jae concludes in his final report that there aren’t any suspicious activities or proof of embezzlement done by Kang-yoon, but Section Chief Hwang’s sudden ambush blows Min-jae’s cover and puts him at odds with his team members. However, Kang-yoon still treats him as usual, despite finding out that he is just a mole planted by the Internal Affairs to spy on him. Min-jae wants to pull out of the mission and leaves Kang-yoon’s team, but Section Chief Hwang finally discloses the real meaty part of the secret organization which backs up Kang-yoon, and Min-jae’s father turned out to be an earlier member of the said organization within the police forces and Kang-yoon’s mentor. Min-jae is given a bitter taste of what it’s like to try and stop Kang-yoon in his investigation, which brings Kang-yoon to his memorable line in the movie:

What exactly is the call of the police you speak of? Listen, we cops are always standing over the boundary. We shouldn’t be completely black or white. […] So, as long as the citizens support our work, we can always stand above the gray zone. Of course, there are times when they will push us towards the black. That’s exactly what being a cop is. If you can’t do that, just quit.

Park Kang-yoon (Jo Jin-woong)

Soon, Kang-yoon finds his pursuit for Na Young-bin halted and funds blocked due to one of the main supporters’ children being involved in Na’s new drug investment. Kang-yoon turns to Cha Dong-chul (Park Myung-hoon), an archenemy of Na, for the expensive funds needed to access Na’s elite investment club through an informant. The operation turns out to be a success, but Min-jae almost lose his own life and Kang-yoon ruffles the feathers of his backers on the top. Without any funds to pay the debt with Cha, Kang-yoon is cornered and decides to pay with his life. Min-jae also finds out that Kang-yoon staged for the police officer early in the movie to be murdered and hired a scapegoat to be the killer, which leads him to think that Kang-yoon wants to live off Cha when he takes over Na’s turf.

A cop must stand above the gray zone? You’ve already fallen in the black muddy water. The world will not stand with you this time.

Choi Min-jae (Choi Woo-shik)

At this point of the story, it is clear that Min-jae isn’t going to arrest Kang-yoon; instead, he wants to stop Kang-yoon from going too far into the black. Again, Kang-yoon isn’t going to let anyone come in between him and his target, not even his mentor’s son. Kang-yoon ends up doing a drug delivery to Yakuza as his way of repaying Cha’s debt, with Min-jae in tow. However, it turns out that Kang-yoon has cast a huge net to catch the big fish in drug trafficking. The operation is another success, but the top isn’t happy with Kang-yoon’s defiance and turns him into the scapegoat for the murder of the police officer. Min-jae realizes that Kang-yoon is just another pawn on the chess set, who has to move according to the supporters’ orders and cannot have his own will. In other words, even without Park Kang-yoon, the organization is already rotting on the inside with the intervention of influential people as supporters funding the police work.

The ending is yours to see for yourself and I’ll save it. Going in without any expectation might be the reason why I enjoyed the movie immensely, despite the reviews mentioning that the lines sometimes get drowned underneath the background music. The music does play an important role in setting the ambiance and that could be why I was carried away and even teared up during certain scenes. The strength of The Policeman’s Lineage no doubt lies in the casting for the titular characters.

Jo Jin-woong has played so many police characters in his long list of filmography, with the memorable ones to me being the corrupt officer in the movie A Hard Day and of course, the ever-lovable Detective Lee Jae-han in the drama Signal. Park Kang-yoon is another police officer, but Jo manages to bring a new side of him to the character: righteous with a strong will to catch the bad guys, but his methods might not be clean. Kang-yoon will cross the line when there’s the need to do so, as long as it brings him to his target, but he also takes pride in being a cop himself. On the other hand, there’s Choi Woo-shik playing Choi Min-jae, who seems green on the outside but is actually someone with a strong sense of justice in him. Maybe it’s because of the blood of police flowing inside his veins, or maybe it’s just his nature. Nevertheless, Choi showcases Min-jae’s greenness and inexperience, which is in perfect contrast to Kang-yoon’s seasoned and confident self.

Their polar opposites selves make it an enjoyable ride to witness how they fare against each other and their journey towards finding common ground with each other. The glint of awe in Min-jae’s eyes, his resolute decision in finding even a speck of dust in Kang-yoon’s records, Kang-yoon’s way of treating people below him with warmth and his patience in dealing with Min-jae’s rashness…it feels like watching two completely opposite people finding trust in each other and building a strong bond between a mentor and his mentee. I want to think that they are still alive and well somewhere in Korea, busily planning and laying traps to catch more bad guys. If you are interested in this genre, then The Policeman’s Lineage might be worth your time. However, please be warned that there are certain bloody scenes that might leave you feeling queasy if you are not a huge fan of blood onscreen. The movie is rated for 15 and above in South Korea and 18+ in my local cinema.

Title The Policeman’s Lineage (경관의 피, lit. “Officer’s Blood”)
Genre Crime, drama
Country South Korea
Running time 119 minutes
Release date 5 January 2022
Directed by Lee Kyu-man
Screenplay by Bae Young-ik
Starring Jo Jin-woong
Choi Woo-shik
Park Hee-soon
Kwon Yul
Park Myung-hoon

Special Delivery (특송) is a crime-action movie that tells the story of Jang Eun-ha (Park So-dam), a driver who specialized in doing deliveries for clients without fail, no matter what the package is, and where the destination is. Penned and directed by Park Dae-min, the movie opens with Eun-ha picking a junk car and bringing it back to her workplace, Baekgang Transport, which operates from a port in Busan. Her fellow colleagues are also introduced: the President Baek Kang-chul (Kim Eui-sung) and her junior, Asif (Han Hyun-min), among other workers living in the vicinity.

Business seems to be thriving for the company as Baek receives a new request for that night, which is to pick up a guest and deliver him to the place where he is boarding a ship to leave the country illegally. Yes, they are operating illegally, yet it is easy why they are in demand; despite being judged as a woman, Eun-ha is one skillful driver behind the wheels, sending the guests flying off their seats and the ‘flies’ – hot on their tails and trailing behind them – are left in the dust. Despite her challenging job, Eun-ha leads a pretty normal life by herself with her orange tabby cat Podong (Chubby!). However, her life soon turns upside down with the arrival of a new delivery request.

Kim Du-shik (Yeon Woo-jin) is a client on the run and set to leave the country through the sea route, but he is not alone: he is bringing together with him his son, Kim Seo-won (Jung Hyeon-jun) and they are on the next list of Eun-ha’s delivery schedule. She senses that the job might be dangerous, but Baek keeps persuading her to go on the work trip to Seoul to pick up the Kims and even agrees to her request to split the pay equally between them. So off Eun-ha drives to Seoul, without realizing that Du-shik is already tracked down by Jo Kyung-pil, who wants to retrieve something that Du-shik has stolen from him. Although he is operating like a gangster, there is something fishy about him, especially from how fast he manages to receive the tip about Du-shik’s whereabouts.

Kyung-pil reaches Du-shik’s hiding place first before Eun-ha, but Du-shik manages to sneak Seo-won out and sends him away to their designated driver first. Seo-won reaches Eun-ha safely, but not with Kyung-pil’s men tailing them closely. Thanks to Du-shik, Eun-ha and Seo-won escape the chase for now, but Eun-ha has a new problem now: without any return address, Seo-won has become a burden she needs to discard, hence she sends him to a suspicious man (Jeon Seok-ho). Still, she can’t seem to ignore her conscience and ends up taking Seo-won with her.

Meanwhile, the real identity of Kyung-pil and his henchman Sang-hun (Heo Dong-won) are revealed, and both of them turn out to be cops operating a side gig outside their working hours. Branding Eun-ha as the murderer of Du-shik and kidnapper of Seo-won, she is pursued as a suspect by the police. Kyung-pil enlists extra hand for help through a man called Chief Woo (Oh Ryung) to track Eun-ha down through the underground route, as he finds more information about Eun-ha. It is also revealed that Eun-ha was a North Korean defector, which brings in the NIS officer, Chief Hwang Mi-young (Yeom Hye-ran) into the mix.

They hide at a motel for the night, where Seo-won learns about Du-shik’s death through the news. Soon after, Kyung-pil reaches the motel thanks to the intel and Chief Hwang’s help and Eun-ha has a close call with him before escaping with Seo-won. Seo-won finally confides in Eun-ha that he does have a mother and they manage to track down his estranged mother, but she denies until the end that she gave birth to Seo-won. Chief Woo finds them and a car chase in the parking lot ensues, which ends up with Eun-ha driving away still in one piece; however, she soon passes out due to injuries.

Chief Hwang finds it odd that Kyung-pil seems to be hiding something from her, and the fact that an eyewitness states that Seo-won is seen waving cars to ask for them to help Eun-ha doesn’t sit well with her, hence she decides to dig around Du-shik’s suspicious death. Eun-ha goes down to Busan with Seo-won in tow after Baek agrees to help Seo-won escape overseas since it’ll be too dangerous for him to stay with them. He seems to be aware of Eun-ha’s past too. Later that night, Kyung-pil reaches their office in Busan and beats down Baek Kang-chul to a pulp in order to fish out any information about Eun-ha from him.

Luckily, Eun-ha is away when they storm into the office, and Asif manages to hide Seo-won in a car boot. It turns out that Baek Kang-chul was the broker who brought Eun-ha down South from the North many years ago. Eun-ha reaches there a little too late, but she puts on a decent fight against Kyung-pil’s men and attempts to escape with Seo-won, but that stubborn piece of work named Kyung-pil keeps meddling in until the end.

Do I look okay to you? I do all the driving and also all the fighting; are you really playing the role of a boyfriend?

Jang Eun-ha (Park So-dam) to Kim Seo-won

The car chase scenes are among the highlights of the movie for me, but I did not expect that the songs featured are actually a part of the Original Sound Track (OST) for the movie itself. The movie does feel a bit slow during some parts in between the action, but it is worth the wait just to watch Eun-ha spinning the wheel like nobody’s business, as if she is born to drive from Day 1. As much as I love seeing her drive, I also love watching her in the cozy home and her adorable cat! I hope that Seo-won does get to meet Podong one day.

Park So-dam gives her character justice here, from the driving to the fighting, and I cannot help but to be curious of Eun-ha’s mysterious and grime past back in the North. A spin-off is too far-fetched and too big of a dream, so I am just going to imagine how fierce her survival instinct was for her to be drenched in blood when Baek Kang-chul first met her. Her chemistry with Jung Hyeon-jun is as adorable as always, considering that this is their second time working together onscreen after Parasite. Now that I think about it, this post features a number of Parasite cast: Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Park Myung-hoon, and even Jung Hyeon-jun! This is such a nice coincidence 😀

Seeing Kim Eui-sung among the cars and equipments, I cannot help but to reminded of his character Jang Sung-chul in Taxi Driver. Maybe I am just feeling nostalgic all of a sudden, right? Although the line of work of Baek Kang-chul is quite sketchy, at least he is staying true to his job, unlike Jo Kyung-pil. Song Sae-byeok’s portrayal of the character is menacing; Kyung-pil does not exactly goes around wielding an axe all the time, but it seems that everyone around him is aware of how dangerous he is. I bet that if not for the movie ending, he might find another way to escape death again. As someone who is resourceful enough to wrap a duct tape around his injured body, he will surely find his way to stay alive. Special Delivery has considerable amount of blood and injured bodies featured on the screen, so get ready to cover your eyes. The movie is rated for 15 and above in South Korea and 18+ in my local cinema.

Title Special Delivery (특송)
Genre Crime, action
Country South Korea
Running time 108 minutes
Release date 12 January 2022
Directed by Park Dae-min
Screenplay by Park Dae-min
Starring Park So-dam
Song Sae-byeok
Kim Eui-sung
Jung Hyeon-jun
Yeon Woo-jin
Yeom Hye-ran
Han Hyun-min

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