“Friend 2: The Great Legacy” picks up 17 years after the 2001 box office hit “Friend” left off. Lee Joon Suk (Yoo Oh Seong) will soon be released from prison, convicted for ordering the murder of his former friend turned rival. The story revolves around Joon Suk’s quest to regain his leadership of Busan’s most powerful gang. While at times quite violent, “Friend 2” remains packed with poignant moments, particularly found in the pseudo father-son relationship between the lead characters, Lee Joon Suk and Choi Sung Hoon (Kim Woo Bin). This film, filled with regret and attempted redemption, delivers a solid multigenerational drama that audiences will greatly enjoy.
Kim Woo Bin as Choi Sung Hoon
Kim Woo Bin expertly portrays the hot-blooded bad boy Choi Sung Hoon, who has lived a tough life, scarred by the reality that his teenage mother regrets having raised him. His history of abusive stepfathers has also instilled in him an extreme distrust of male figures. He knows that he has to fight for what he wants. If he’s weak, he’ll be beat.
Funeral- Friend 2
Things have changed while Jong Suk was in jail. Not only has Busan’s skyline grown upward and phones can now access the Internet, but his power in Busan is also being contested. The new VP, Eung Gi (Jeong Ho Bin), has been causing trouble as he climbs his way up the gang’s hierarchy. Many of Jong Suk’s supporters have been eliminated, leaving him on shaky ground. He may be the rightful successor of the gang, but Eung Gi will stop at nothing to keep Jong Suk from regaining his past power.
Jail Joon Suk and Sung Hoon
Just before Joon Suk is released from prison, he receives a visit from an old friend, Sung Hoon’s mother. She begs him to protect her delinquent son whose father is the man Joon Suk ordered to kill. Sung Hoon’s life is in danger in jail and Joon Suk steps in to ensure Sung Hoo’s safety from Eung Gi’s underlings. Once they are both released, Joon Suk recruits Sung Hoon for a partnership to retake Busan. Sung Hoon’s ignorance plays an important role in his development under Joon Suk. He may greatly respect his boss, but how will Sung Hoon react to the hidden truth about his father’s death?
Sung Hoon & Joon Suk
Even though Sung Hoon and Jong Suk come from different generations, their similar regrets and cutthroat life choices bond them together in a type of mentor/mentee relationship. For me, this relationship is the highlight of the film. While the brutal rivalry between Joon Suk and Eung Gi drives the plot, I found myself drawn to the more emotional scenes involving Jong Suk and Sung Hoon. Kim Woo Bin especially gives an excellent rendering of his character’s deep-rooted conflict, generating empathy for a character that also commits terrible crimes.
Sung Hoon's Gang
Overall, this violent noir hits emotional high notes throughout its portrayal of past and present mistakes. Both Yoo Oh Seong and Kim Woo Bin deliver excellent and thought provoking performances. While their bond of friendship may be full of conflict, these characters are able to better reconcile with their past mistakes through this association. Audiences will enjoy this well-paced, thrilling examination of the lives of morally driven gangsters.
“Friend 2” will be playing in select US theaters starting on December 13.
For more information, check out Friend 2: The Great Legacy.
Title: Friend 2: The Great Legacy
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Running time: 124 minutes
Director: Kwak Kyung Taek
All images courtesy of CJ Entertainment