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Originally published Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 3:00 PM

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‘New World’: a cold, stylish South Korean gangster drama

A movie review of “New World,” an elegant and impassive South Korean mob drama that focuses on an undercover police operation.

Special to The Washington Post

Movie Review 2.5 stars

‘New World,’ with Lee Jung-jae, Hwang Jun-min, Park Seong-woong, Choi Min-sik. Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung, 134 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains graphic violence, profanity, smoking). In Korean and Mandarin, with English subtitles. Several theaters.

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The title of South Korean director Park Hoon-jung’s latest movie, “New World,” derives from the name of an undercover police operation. A gangster-run corporation, Goldmoon, is about to choose a new boss, and the cops want to secretly control the succession.

This premise won’t seem particularly new to fans of Hong Kong cops-and-gangsters fare. But if the Korean box-office smash doesn’t offer any thematic surprises, it does pack a lot of style.

“New World” opens with the bloody face of a man who has been tortured and is about to be executed. The victim is a Goldmoon flunky, accused of providing inside dope to the cops. In fact, the informant (Lee Jung-jae) is a cop who has posed as a gang member for eight years and has become the trusted aide of Jung (Hwang Jun-min), one of the two men most likely to take control of Goldmoon. The other contender to run Goldmoon is Lee (Park Seong-woong), who represents the clan that founded the organization.

Punctuated by stately funerals and chaotic melees, “New World” is as elegant and impassive as its suit-wearing thugs. During a crucial sequence that cuts from one bloody situation to a very different one, “New World” feels as heartless as the men it depicts.

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