The young criminal Hyun-Soo is a youthful and ambitious prisoner who does not seem to think too much of the consequences of his actions. Jae-Ho is a career criminal and a mobster. He rules the prison with an iron hand. An unlikely empathy between the two men grows and they decide to take on the world when leaving the prison. But both of them are hiding dangerous secrets. When all is unveiled the truth is doomed to destroy them both...
THE MERCILESS is a gangster action drama film, a genre South Korea excels in. It is miraculous that after so many movies the gangster theme feels so fresh, and the reason for this is the carefully executed script and characters one can't help, but care for deeply. The strangely meaningful friendship, a borderline love affair between the older gangster and the young rookie has genuine chemistry. The sexual tension is only implied, but the bond the two strike is comparable to the one between lovers.
The movie is carefully structured, with short informative flashbacks, that allows one to look with new eyes at how the story has progressed, each time revealing new information and new accents that change perspective.
THE MERCILESS is a violent film, but perhaps is less so than many other of the same genre. The best thing about it is how the script avoids cliches, constantly giving some fresh twist, until the rather familiar finale - a traditional Korean climax of heartbreak and devastation.
Boasting fantastic cinematography, likeable performances and an extremely well written script, THE MERCILESS may be the best alternative to the American blockbuster, if you want some soul and thought in your action.