Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time

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Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time
Promotional poster
Hanja 와의
Revised Romanization Bumjoewaui Junjaeng
McCune–Reischauer Pŏmjoewa-ŭi Chŏnjaeng
Directed by Yoon Jong-bin
Produced by
  • Park Shin-gyoo
  • Yoo Jeong-hoon
Written by Yoon Jong-bin
Starring Choi Min-sik
Ha Jung-woo
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Go Nak-seon
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum
Palette Pictures
Distributed by Showbox
Release date
  • February 2, 2012 (2012-02-02)
Running time
133 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Box office ₩36,378,808,500

Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time (Hangul범죄와의 전쟁: 나쁜놈들 전성시대; RRBeomjoewaui Jeonjaeng: Nappeunnomdeul Jeonseongsidae; literally: "War on Crime: The Golden Age of the Bad Guys") is a 2012 South Korean gangster film directed by Yoon Jong-bin starring Choi Min-sik and Ha Jung-woo. The film is set in the 1980s and ’90s in Busan when corruption and crime was so rampant that the government declared war on it in 1990.[1]

Time praised the film, calling it "the Korean mob film Scorsese would be proud of."[2]


South Korea, 13 October 1990. Following President Roh Tae-woo's declaration of a crackdown on organized crime, Busan businessman Choi Ik-hyun (Choi Min-sik) is arrested for embezzling billions of won from hotel construction companies, and is also charged with intimidation, kidnapping and assault. Busan public prosecutor Jo Beom-seok (Kwak Do-won) is in charge of the investigation, and especially the murder of hotel owner Heo Sam-shik (Kwon Tae-won) by mobster Kim Pan-ho (Cho Jin-woong), with whom Ik-hyun allegedly was connected.

Back in March 1982, Choi was a Busan customs officer who, along with colleagues, was already taking bribes and pilfering goods. After discovering 10 kilograms of hiropon (crystal meth) in a warehouse one night, he and colleague Mr. Jang (Kim Jong-soo) approach a friend of Jang's, gangster Choi Hyung-bae (Ha Jung-woo), to sell it to Japan's yakuza, with whom Hyung-bae has ties. Ik-hyun discovers that the younger Hyung-bae is also a member of the same Choi family clan from Gyeongju and the two form a close relationship. Ik-hyun leaves his customs job and becomes a full-time businessman, with Hyung-bae taking care of the underworld side and Ik-hyun protecting him with his high-level contacts.

In the mid-'80s the two forcibly take over a nightclub run by Miss Yeo (Kim Hye-eun) that is on the turf of Pan-ho. Following his humiliation, Pan-ho has the club raided by the police and Hyung-bae arrested, though Ik-hyun gets Hyung-bae released by using the Choi clan connection with Seoul public prosecutor Choi Joo-dong (Kim Eung-soo). In May 1987, Ik-hyun and Hyung-bae take their business to the next level, formally linking up with Japan's Yakuza and having a connection with a hotel-casino, the Daedong, that is also on Pan-ho's turf. Pan-ho threatens a gang war with Hyung-bae, and Ik-hyun is forced to decide where his loyalties and self-survival lie.[3]

Out of desperation, Ik-hyun meets up with Pan-ho without Hyung-bae's knowledge to solve the issues between the two gangs. A paranoid Hyung-bae, who has become increasingly annoyed by Ik-hyun trying to overpower him, has Ik-Hyun beaten up and kicked out of the gang with a stern warning. When Ik-hyun is arrested by the prosecutor, he finally reveals all his connections to the underworld in order to save himself. However, he seemingly only reveals the whereabouts of Pan-ho, who has been hiding away from the authorities. In order to survive, Hyung-bae reconciles with Ik-hyun and they plan to escape together after Ik-hyun has his family sent away to America. However, as they are escaping Busan, the authorities catch up to them. It turns out that Ik-hyun had revealed Hyunb-bae's whereabouts as well and has been playing him all along. Hyung-bae tries to kill Ik-hyun out of frustration but he is arrested and taken away. The prosecutor is given an award by the president for bringing down organized crime in Busan.

Twenty years later, Ik-hyun's son is now a law graduate from Seoul University and has joined the prosecutor's office. Despite having escaped the law and living a life of luxury, Ik-hyun is still suffering from guilt over how he betrayed Hyung-bae. While he is celebrating his first grandson's birthday with the rest of the family, Hyung-bae's voice is heard and the screen turns to black.


  • Choi Min-sik as Choi Ik-hyun[4][5][6]
  • Ha Jung-woo as Choi Hyung-bae, a gang boss
  • Cho Jin-woong as Kim Pan-ho, a gang boss
  • Kwak Do-won as Jo Beom-seok, a public prosecutor
  • Ma Dong-seok as Mr. Kim, brother-in-law of Ik-hyun
  • Kim Sung-kyun as Park Chang-woo, Hyung-bae's gang underboss
  • Kim Jong-goo as Jo Bong-goo, a customs chief officer
  • Kim Jong-soo as Mr. Jang, a customs officer
  • Kwon Tae-won as Heo Sam-shik, co-owner of the nightclub
  • Kim Hye-eun as Miss Yeo, co-owner of the nightclub
  • Kim Eung-soo as Choi Joo-dong, a public prosecutor
  • Song Young-chang as Mr. Han, a lawyer
  • Takeshi Nakajima as Jaidoku Ganeyama, a yakuza boss
  • Lee Cheol-min as Hyung-bae's gang member
  • Go In-beom as Choi Moo-il, Hyung-bae's father
  • Kim Young-seon as wife of Ik-hyun
  • Park Byung-eun as adult Choi Joo-han, son of Ik-hyun


Choi Min-sik reportedly put on 10 kilograms for his role and Ha Jung-woo spent 8 hours putting on the fake body tattoos featured in the film.[7]


Nameless Gangster attracted over 4 million admissions in 26 days of release. It drew 1 million in four days, 2.5 million in 11 days, 3 million in 17 days, and 3.5 million in 20 days.[8] According to data provided by Korean Film Council (KOFIC) it topped the list of ten most-watched films in South Korea in the first quarter of 2012, with a total of 4.6 million admissions.[9]

Its success is notable as it was screened in February (traditionally a low season for movies), rated R, and screened less frequently due to its long running time of 133 minutes. Korean Film Biz Zone stated "the film has elements working against it for box office success. Despite that, "the return of" Choi Min-sik melded with top-rated actor of the day Ha Jung-woo is impressive. The two actors' presence is backed up by a solid supporting cast, giving the film a distinct flavor of a gangster classic."[10]

The film ranked #1 for three weeks, two of which were consecutive. It grossed ₩8 billion in its first week of release,[11] and grossed a total of ₩36 billion after nine weeks of screening.[12]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an audience score of 72%.[13] On IMDb the film has a rating of 7.2/10.[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2012 Baeksang Arts Awards

2012 Buil Film Awards

2012 Grand Bell Awards

2012 Korean Association of Film Critics Awards[16]

2012 Asia Pacific Screen Awards[17]

2012 Blue Dragon Film Awards[18][19]

2012 Korean Culture and Entertainment Awards[21]

2012 Busan Film Critics Awards

  • Best Film

2013 KOFRA Film Awards (Korea Film Reporters Association)[22][23]

2013 Asian Film Awards[24]


Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time
Soundtrack album by Jo Yeong-wook
Released February 20, 2012 (2012-02-20)
Genre Pop, rock
Label Ohgam Entertainment
Producer Jo Yeong-wook
Hong Dae-seong
Jeong Hyun-soo
Seok Seung-hee[25]

The film's soundtrack was released on February 20, 2012.[25] Jo Yeong-wook, whose credits include Thirst, Oldboy, and Public Enemy, served as the music director, and composed 22 score tracks.[26] Also included was an old K-pop song that was reflective of the era in which the film is set, "I Heard a Rumor" (Korean: 풍문으로 들었소), which was originally sung by 1980s rock band Hahm Joong-ah and the Yankees (Korean: 함중아와 양키스).[27] The cover version sung by rock band Jang Ki-ha and the Faces played during the end credits sequence of the film, and was released on January 13, 2012 as a single.[28][29]

Track listing[edit]

  1. War on Crime Part 1 (범죄와의 전쟁 Part 1) – 2:33
  2. Year 1982 (1982년) – 2:28
  3. Ourselves (우리끼리) – 1:55
  4. Thugs (양아치) – 2:53
  5. Memories of a Beach (해변의 추억) – 4:03
  6. Road (길) – 1:52
  7. Gangsters (건달들) – 2:28
  8. War on Crime Part 2 (범죄와의 전쟁 Part 2) – 2:16
  9. Pedigree (족보) – 2:48
  10. Road of the War – 1:45
  11. Crossroad (교차로) – 2:38
  12. Target (타겟) – 2:15
  13. To Another World (또 다른 세상으로) – 3:02
  14. Cold Wall (차가운 벽) – 1:33
  15. God of Lobbying (로비의 신) – 2:03
  16. War on Crime Part 3 (범죄와의 전쟁 Part 3) – 4:10
  17. Profitable Suggestion (유익한 제안) – 2:52
  18. Dead-end Road (막다른 길) – 2:05
  19. War on Crime Part 4 (범죄와의 전쟁 Part 4) – 5:49
  20. Sun Filled (태양은 가득히) – 1:54
  21. In My Soul of Souls – 4:21
  22. War on Crime Part 5 (범죄와의 전쟁 Part 5) – 2:44
  23. I Heard a Rumor (풍문으로 들었소) – 3:16

In popular culture[edit]

The film has been parodied in many popular variety shows on TV, such as Gag Concert and Infinite Challenge. Comedians aped the film characters' hairstyle and fashion, and the use of the phrase "Sara Itne" (Hangul살아 있네, akin to meaning 'fresh') and the song "I Heard a Rumor."[30]

It was also parodied by members of the boy band Shinhwa in their 2013 Shinhwa Grand Finale: The Classic in Seoul concerts in August 2013.[31]


  1. ^ Jung, Hyun-mok (17 February 2012). "Controversial director tackles corruption in Nameless Gangster". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  2. ^ Templin, Jacob (10 April 2012). "Nameless Gangster: The Korean Mob Film Scorsese Would Be Proud Of". Time. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  3. ^ Elley, Derek (6 April 2012). "Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  4. ^ Lee, Claire (1 February 2012). "Choi Min-sik returns as layered villain". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  5. ^ Lee, Ga-on (14 February 2012). "INTERVIEW: Actor Choi Min-shik - Part 1". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  6. ^ Lee, Ga-on (14 February 2012). "INTERVIEW: Actor Choi Min-shik - Part 2". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  7. ^ "Hot Flicks and Soaps: Nameless Gangster". KBS World. Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  8. ^ "Nameless Gangster Emerging as Hottest Korean Movie of the Year". The Chosun Ilbo. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  9. ^ Hong, Lucia (9 April 2012). "Korean movies notch up higher number in 1Q ticket sales". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  10. ^ Kim, Seong-hoon (20 February 2012). "Box office analysis, Feb. 1 - 14". Korean Film Council. Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  11. ^ "South Korea Box Office: February 3–5, 2012". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  12. ^ "South Korea Box Office: March 30–April 1, 2012". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  13. ^ Nameless Gangster, retrieved 2016-08-28 
  14. ^ Yun, Jong-bin (2012-02-02), Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, retrieved 2016-08-28 
  15. ^ Hicap, Jonathan M. (27 April 2012). "Winners at 48th Baeksang Arts Awards". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  16. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (9 November 2012). "PIETA, Critics’ No.1 Choice". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  17. ^ Jang, Sung-ran (27 November 2012). "Korean Films Shine in Asia-Pacific Region and Europe". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  18. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (4 December 2012). "PIETA Wins Best Picture at Blue Dragon Awards". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  19. ^ Lee, Hye-ji (30 November 2012). "Nameless Gangster Actors Arrive at 33rd Blue Dragon Film Awards". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  20. ^ 남우주연상 최민식 "제도적으로 상생하는 방안 만들자". Blue Dragon Film Awards (in Korean). 29 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  21. ^ "Winners - Film category". 20th KCEA Awards. Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
  22. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (1 February 2013). "‘Pieta’ is a hit with the journalists". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  23. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (1 February 2013). "PIETA Regarded as the Best Film in 2012 by Reporters". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  24. ^ Shackleton, Liz (16 January 2013). "Mystery, Gangster head Asian Film Awards nominations". Screen International. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  25. ^ a b 범죄와의 전쟁(나쁜놈들 전성시대). ManiaDB (in Korean). Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  26. ^ "Nameless Gangster OST". YesAsia. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  27. ^ Lee, Jin-ho (27 January 2012). "Nameless Gangster is All about the Acting". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  28. ^ "Full Soundtrack for Nameless Gangster Released". Korean Indie. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  29. ^ 범죄와의 전쟁: 나쁜놈들 전성시대. ManiaDB (in Korean). Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  30. ^ ‘방송과의 전쟁’ 셀프디스 "개콘=게스트콘서트" 귀 기울여야 할 이유. Newsen (in Korean). 23 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  31. ^ Ko, Hong-ju (5 August 2013). "Shinhwa Talks about Fan Love and Success Before Its Finale Concert". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 

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