A respectable young cop follows a suspect suspected of being a top officer in “The Policeman’s Lineage,” an undercover thriller who becomes confused and slack just as the pursuit picks up speed. Park Kang-yoon (Cho Jin-woong), a big-time detective who rubs shoulders with high-rollers and wrangles informants to make tough arrests, and Choi Min-jae (Choi Woo-shik), the scrupulous son of a murdered police officer, is assigned to Park’s team to track down any signs of corruption.
There is always some potential in a mole’s double life, as the risk of discovery adds an extra thrill to each twist. Min-jae boldly sniffs around Kang-yoon planting bugs, while the elderly officer takes him on his rounds, scattering money at high-stakes poker tables and speedboat races.
But the film never comes into its own, wandering through plot points that don’t really connect, while bland flashbacks about Min-jae’s father undermine the momentum. As Park, Cho plays his cards close to his vest, leaving us guessing, but Choi (who played the rich family’s teacher in “Parasite”) puts on a dutiful front that isn’t particularly powerful or memorable.
The director, Lee Kyu-man, has the camera hovering tensely over scenes, but just a few action sequences pack a lot of oomph. There’s more sinister suspense in short scenes featuring elder statesmen from the criminal world, who are chillingly self-assured. But an ongoing debate about whether the end justifies the means in policing never ignites, and the film undignified culminates with a plot point involving a machine injecting drugs into coffee.
The Lineage of the Police Officer
Not judged. In Korean, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 59 minutes. Rent or buy on Google Play, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.