“Let’s unleash the mad dogs again.”
Hearing that line again is enough to get me all excited and waiting impatiently for this movie to be screened in my country despite my general aversion to sequels, spinoffs, and the like. Because it’s Oh Goo-tak who says it, and it’s Bad Guys!
Granted, i was disappointed not to see the full original cast here, but at least we got two of them reprising their roles and another two appearing as cameos. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of Jung-moon whatsoever. Which is probably because he’s a free man now and shouldn’t be scouted anymore. It’s been five years since we last saw Team Mad Dogs after all — and a lot could have happened in the intervening years.
The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos is set in present-day 2019 i suppose, because Oh Goo-tak (Kim Sang-joong) has been released and reverted to his jaded and somber self like what he looked like at the start of the drama. Park Woong-chul (Ma Dong-seok) is still the revered and feared inmate but has gotten softer and taken up sewing. Jung Tae-soo (Jo Dong-hyuk) is a changed man and wants no part in doing ‘bad’ deeds anymore. Yoo Mi-young (Kang Ye-won) is still in the force and looks fiercer. One thing that stays constant is the number of baddies going rampant.
…that the police chief(?) feels the need to reinstate Goo-tak again and resurrect the underground team of felons to complete the task the force is unable to: re-capturing some elusive escaped prisoners. The incentive is the same: 3-year prison term cut for every small fish, 5 for a big one. Without Tae-soo, fresh blood is needed to execute the missions, for which Goo-tak recruits Go Yoo-sung (Jang Ki-yong), hot blooded ex-cop who’s serving jail time for involuntary manslaughter and eventually Kwak No-soon aka Jessica (Kim Ah-Joong), a not-too-sly repeat offender con artist who is initially one of their four targets.
Now fully assembled, Team Mad Dogs 2.0 dives right into tracking down the other three targets one by one.
I expected another round of battle of wits and criminal minds between resident bad guys and downright villains, or another dose of suspense as dished in the drama version, only to find it not as chaotic as the title suggests. Yes, their fists always work faster and more effective than their investigation skills, but this time, the modus operandi feels really haphazard. Chaotic, if i must. Goo-tak was the one masterminding the raids and orchestrating the minions’ positions and movements, but here he becomes more like a toothless supporter, even more so with his cancer-stricken frailty.
The spotlight is also shifted to Woong-chul. Which is understandable since he has a personal business to nab the big bad baddie. And having him as the lead does grace us with more comical moments. On the flip side, some of them felt inorganic and forced (e.g. the CPR scene, the GPS remark) because it seems like every scene he’s in gotta be somewhat funny. Jessica’s too casual and frivolous attitude also undermines the gravitas of the missions, as if they are not to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, having four targets to pinch proves to be to much for a 114-minute action flick to handle. There’s simply not enough time to flesh out each case or give the characters proper backstories to make the chase or bond believable. The former isn’t done in order either that i was wondering why they’re after a serial killer while in the middle of pursuing the mafia boss, only to realize that he was actually the first on the list. The movie should’ve just focused on the escaped mob boss given its layered complexity, also because there’s a yakuza above him to crack down too.
Backstories may not be necessary with the original lineup, but with two new additions, it is necessary to justify their commitment to the team (or trust in Goo-tak) or willingness to work together as a team. The movie also fails to highlight each member’s specialty or why they’re handpicked by Goo-tak. The drama’s lineup had the perfect balance of muscle, skills, and brain, which i didn’t find here. I thought Yoo-sung would replace Tae-soo’s stealth while Jessica would make up for Jung-moon’s criminal profiling flair, but the former isn’t that smart for a top police graduate and his combat style isn’t that different from Woong-chul while the latter isn’t as crafty as she’s hailed to be. She doesn’t even possess fighting skills, it’s a miracle she gets out relatively unscathed by the end of the day.
The new members’ inadequacy is arguably accentuated by the inclusion of a random character nicknamed ‘Goblin Foot’ to open the gate to the yakuza’s den and take care of the ground-level brawl which otherwise could’ve killed Jessica in no time.
The plot itself is half spin-off half sequel of the series. The narrative continues from there but some backstories are new. For instance, both Woong-chul’s gangster-boss friend who gave him the pink glove and Yoo-sung’s cop father weren’t part of the drama, were they? Also, there’s too much information fed to us in such short span of time i may need a second rewatch to catch all details. I was probably too distracted by the lack of apostrophes in the English subs to comprehend everything.
Honestly, i didn’t have too much expectation going into it. I don’t even remember the drama’s details since it’s been five years, but i was disappointed with how the movie turned out. It is pretty light according to Bad Guys‘ level, much of the humor is shoehorned in it feels jarring to the dark heavy cases, and i hate to see how weak Goo-tak has become. It’s the cancer, i know, but still, he ends up the type of leader who talks big but is actually lousy. He doesn’t need to be that involved in the brawl (he didn’t either in the drama, if my memory serves me right), and he loses the charismatic aura that i thought the movie was written by a different person. This is one of my biggest pet peeves regarding sequels: the uncharacteristic character development.
I have not much issues with the cast, though. Kim Sang-joong and Ma Dong-seok slip into their 2014’s characters flawlessly. Jang Ki-yong is killing it in this kind of sociopathic role. Kim Ah-Joong hams up the facetious persona quite a bit, albeit not half as bad as Kim Hyung-mook’s portrayal of the police chief. And it’s refreshing to see Lee Jae-yoon in villainy role, after all of the super-kind oppa roles i’ve seen of him before this.
But again, it’s the script that let me down: the plot devices, the convenient turn of events, the lack of smart twists. The writers couldn’t even come up with a different ending and ended up dishing up similar final post-raid scene and characters’ fates, including the way the quid-pro-quo deal went down. It’s nostalgic but also lazy. Well, it’s not easy to repeat the magic with the same team, let alone only half of them.
Director: Son Yong-ho
Screenwriter: Han Jung-hoon, Son Yong-ho
Production: CJ Entertainment & Bidangil Production, 2019
Cast: Kim Sang-joong, Ma Dong-seok, Jang Ki-yong, Kim Ah-Joong, Lee Jae-yoon, Kim In-woo, Kim Hyung-mook
Genre: Crime, Action, Comedy, K-movie