Armed to the hilt with double-, triple- and quadruple-crossings between gangsters, moles and cops, “The Merciless” tries to be the whole “Infernal Affairs
” trilogy rolled into one movie. A largely generic crime thriller in which a ruthless gangster and his protege fight for dominance in and out of prison, the third film by South Korean director Byung Sung-hyun barrels forth with riotous energy, but two-thirds into the picture, the switcheroos get so ridiculous one eventually stops caring about any character. This is a shame, as the two leads, Sul Kang-gul and Yim Si-wan, are flamboyantly compelling.
Still, the stylized production and stomach-churning violence are tailor-made for Asian genre fans, making the film an easy sell abroad. Although a controversy surrounding the helmer’s provocative tweets has hurt domestic box office, the movie has already presold to more than 110 territories worldwide.
A prologue introduces the formidable protagonist, Jae-ho (Sul, “Oasis,” “Silmido