South Korean Thriller ‘The Merciless’ is Set to Be the Next 'Train to Busan'

The Merciless proves South Korea knows how to make thrillers.

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The Merciless further proves South Korea knows how to make thrillers.

The Merciless, the newest South Korean crime thriller, which will be screening at Cannes this month, now has distribution deals in 85 territories, including France and French speaking territories (with a deal done with ARP), Australia and New Zealand (through JBG Pictures), Taiwan (Movie Cloud), Mongolia (Bloomsbury), the Philippines (Viva Communications) and India (Sony).

Directed by Byun Sung-hyun, the film stars veteran actors Seol Kyung Goo and Kim Hee Won and K-Pop idol Im Si-wan. According to Variety, the film “sees a gangster who partners up with a fearless newbie to take over a gang.” The film’s trailer, below, sees flashy red cars, close-ups on money, guns, and plenty of fight scenes, all while we are told not to “trust people. Trust the circumstances.”

The Merciless seeks to follow the success of its South Korean thriller predecessor, Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan. With the former bowing in the same Cannes midnight screenings section as Yeon’s 2016 film, it’s clear The Merciless is set to become a global hit.

While Train to Busan is a zombie-action thriller and The Merciless a crime thriller, Byun and Yeon’s ability to transform everyday settings into rich, dynamic worlds full of tense atmospheres emphasizes how Korean filmmakers clearly know how to do thrillers right. Both filmmakers utilize their scripts, lighting, and performances in order to create settings that are at once eerily familiar and alien to the viewer.

In Train to Busan, viewers saw how Yeon created tension through a quiet, slowly paced scene juxtaposed by a well-judged break into action. Yeon’s focus on minor characters, their need to survive and his awareness of the setting presents something refreshing with the genre. While we only have a trailer so far, The Merciless looks set to follow in style.

The Merciless is to be released in South  Korea on May 18th, before its Cannes premiere, and in France and Taiwan in June. No US release has been announced as of yet.

Freelance writer based in the UK.