The story revolves around Park Tae-soo, the delinquent son of a petty criminal who, after watching his father getting beaten by a man much weaker than him, who happens to be a prosecutor, decides that this is what he wants to be. Not having studied in his whole life, though, Park finds himself perplexed, although the solution eventually is presented to him.
After having to face disbelieving teachers, intense antagonism and living in a world he knew nothing about, he manages to enter the most prestigious law school in the country, and eventually becomes a prosecutor. Soon, though, he realizes that his job is not that prestigious, as it involves long hours and meager pay.
After insisting on a case that seems to hide something amiss, of a man molesting a teenage girl, Park is introduced to Yang Dong-cheol, a man who eventually brings him to the circle of the “1%” of prosecutors that truly move the ropes and make tons of money in the process. Han Kang-sik, an extremely influential man who retains an archive of everything unlawful the strongest men and women in the country have ever done, and uses it to forward his and his team’s goals, is the undisputed head of the group, with his ties reaching from the President to the mafia and from the press to big law firms.
Park becomes a member of the team and even forms his own mafia connections with Choi Doo-il, a childhood friend who eventually takes over Seoul’s underground. As the leadership of the country changes, Han manages to stay in power, with Park benefiting the most by the group’s status. However, nothing lasts forever.
Han Jae-rim directs and pens a movie that manages to include a number of popular themes without hitting the reef of commercialism, and even more importantly, the one of the melodrama. In that fashion, the movie includes the “rise to power” and the subsequent downfall theme; the historical based-on-true-events background (including actual footage), as many actual, political and non-events are used; the corruption deriving from the connection among the press; the judiciary; the politicians; and most of all, the mafia.
The question of “can a man resist temptation?” is another central theme, with the answer provided being as clear as the consequences of the decision. Add to that some violence, a bit of gore, and a number of gorgeous women in secondary roles and you have the backbone of the film. The only thing that bothered me in terms of story is that the end goes a bit too far.