The Korea Herald


Auteur Chung Ji-young returns with another high-profile case-based film in ‘The Boys’

'Boys' follows 'Unbowed,' 'Black Money' in depicting infamous South Korean cases

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Sept. 27, 2023 - 15:54

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“The Boys” (CJENM) “The Boys” (CJENM)

South Korean auteur Chung Ji-young returns for the first time in four years with the crime flick “The Boys,” another work based on a real-life high-profile case. The new film follows “Unbowed” (2011) and “Black Money” (2019), which dealt with the true stories of a professor who went against a corrupt Korean judicial system in 2007 and the 2012 sale of the Korean Exchange Bank to American equity firm Lone Star Funds, respectively.

“The Boys” revolves around three young men aged 19 to 20 who were falsely arrested for involvement in a murder in a small rural town in 1999. Veteran detective Joon-cheol (Sol Kyung-gu) receives information on the real culprit and throws himself in to reinvestigate the case. But his efforts are soon interrupted by detective Woo-sung (Yoo Jun-sang), who originally handled the case. After 16 years, witnesses and the accused visit Joon-cheol.

Based on the real-life murder and robbery case at a supermarket in a small town in North Jeolla Province in February 1999, the film deals with “one of the most important cases to be remembered in the 21st century,” according to Chung.

“I made this film based on my willingness as an adult to protect the boys who come from not-so-well-off families and were not educated, thus shunned by society. I wanted to convey a message about how our society views those people,” Chung told reporters in a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday.

Actor Sol Kyung-gu said he vividly remembers the case.

“As many documentary programs deeply covered the case, the story of this so-called ‘Samrye Nara supermarket’ case was also carved into my head. There are many true story-based movies, but this one had a striking storyline, something outspoken and strong, with intensity,” Sol said.

“I just couldn’t let go of this precious opportunity to work with director Chung, who is the past, present and future of Korean cinema,” he added.

Yoo, who appears in an unsupportive villain role in “The Boys,” said the film’s message is timeless.

“After reading all these piles of documents about the case, I could deeply immerse into the story, feeling guilty and also sorry. I could instantly realize why director Chung decided to do this project that has a message to tell the audience regardless of their ages and also the time frame,” said Yoo.

Heo Sung-tae, who had a breakout role as a gangster in Netflix megahit series “Squid Game,” said this was his first-ever nonvillain role. He appears as detective Jung-kyu, who supports Joon-cheol.

“This was a film that I had coveted so much as an actor. I’ve always wanted to play this kind of character. I’m sure that the audience will have many more feelings than I felt during the shoot,” he said. Heo added that he was shooting the “Squid Game” at the same time as this film in late 2020.

Yeom Hye-ran, known recently for “The Glory” and “Mask Girl,” appears as Joon-cheol’s wife, who supports him no matter what.

“I first watched the film when it premiered in Busan at the Busan Film Festival last year, and it was really an overwhelming film. The film also tells the reason why you should have people around to encourage you. I hope many people find the message after watching our film,” said Yeom.

“The Boys” hits local theaters on Nov. 1.