12 years later, an iconic ‘Friend’ returns

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12 years later, an iconic ‘Friend’ returns


Yoo Oh-sung and Kim Woo-bin team up in “Friend 2,” the highly anticipated sequel to the 2001 gangster tale “Friend.” Provided by Lotte Entertainment

Twelve years after he brought us “Friend,” the award-winning and box office record-setting film about friendship and gangsters, Kwak Kyung-taek returns to the tale with “Friend 2.”

At a press screening on Monday, the director and the two leading actors, Yoo Oh-sung and Kim Woo-bin, talked about the significance of the sequel.

“This film is like a thank-you present to all the fans that loved the prequel,” said Yoo, who said he was worried at first about trying to fill in for Hallyu star Jang Dong-gun, the lead of the first movie.

The sequel picks up 17 years later, after Joon-seok (Yoo) has served his time in prison for the murder of his friend and rival gang leader Dong-soo (Jang).


From left: Yoo Oh-sung, Kwang Kyung-taek and Kim Woo-bin at a press screening on Monday.

Once he’s free again, Joon-seok has a lot to do, most importantly figure out where he stands with his old mob ties. After being locked up for so long, a power shift has evidently taken place. Even though the gang was founded by his father, Chul-ju (Joo Jin-mo), Joon-seok finds the leadership role is now firmly in the hands of Eun-ki (Jung Ho-bin).

As he formulates his plan to retake the top position in the gang, Joon-seok decides he needs some fresh blood in his inner posse, most notably being Sung-hoon (model-turned-actor Kim Woo-bin), whom he met in prison.

“I have always said ‘The Godfather’ is my favorite movie,” said Kwak. “So although I didn’t exactly make this movie to emulate it, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some similarities.”

Like most gangster movies, there is plenty of blood, violence, drugs and backstabbing, much more than the original “Friend.” Despite the increase in violence, as well as numerous flashbacks to the original film, Kwak says “Friend 2” is “not as intense as the first.”

Tackling the sequel for such an iconic movie, Kwak could have been intimidated, but he said he looked at the two films as two different genres.

“The first movie, which I didn’t expect to do so well, tapped into people’s feelings of nostalgia,” he said. “But these days there are so many movies like that, from ‘Sunny’ to ‘Nameless Gangster.’”

For “Friend 2,” Kwak said he wanted to break away from that style. “I just wanted to make a great action noir,” he said. “If ‘Friend’ touched upon memories and the past, then ‘Friend 2’ is a film that looks toward a man’s future.”

Despite the new direction, Yoo said that reprising his iconic role came quite naturally for him.

“In the prequel I was in my mid-30s and now I’m on the other side of 40,” said Yoo. “Through growing old, my way of looking at life has changed” - and, Yoo noted, so has his character.

As for the newcomer to this story, Kim said that after viewing the film for the first time, he had tears in his eyes as the credits rolled.

“I’m just so honored and touched to be a part of it,” said the 24-year-old actor.

Kim said he felt honored for the chance to make his cinematic debut in such a revered series and that the film offered him some invaluable life experiences.

“I’ve tried a lot of rebel roles, but I never got to try such a wide range of bad behavior as I did in this movie,” said Kim, whose character races around on a motorbike, smokes, cusses and bashes his way through prison (and much of Busan). “I think this really is the ultimate in rebel roles.”

Just so there is no confusion with the ending of the film, which Kwak calls “open to interpretation,” the director made it clear that this would be the last film about these characters.

“I didn’t make this movie with a follow-up in mind,” he said.

Yoo agreed that this time would be the last time to play his famous role. “It’s time to end it,” he said.

Back in 2001, “Friend” drew a whopping 8.2 million viewers to theaters when it opened, which at the time was the best result for any movie in Korean - a feat that was all the more remarkable given that the violent film had an age ban of 19 years and over.

“Friend 2” opens all over Korea on Thursday.

BY Carla Sunwoo [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]
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