The Asian continent is known for a lot of things, such as food, great people, wonderful sights and sounds, and even incredible films. One of the film genres that often gets overlooked in Asia but is actually intriguing and very entertaining is the gangster genre. That’s because the way that Asians portray gangster culture tends to be quite different from western movies because of the cultural differences between the two places.
Of course, different Asian countries have different gangster cultures. But there are similarities in the way they portray gangster culture in their movies, and it’s possible that there are also parallels between Asian gangster movies and their American or western counterparts. So, with that said, let’s look at some of the best Asian gangster movies that you might want to watch if you’re a fan of the gangster genre.
15. Twisted Justice (2016)
Twisted Justice is not necessarily a gangster movie in the sense that it follows the storyline of gangsters. That’s because the main characters in Twisted Justice are cops instead of criminals. Nevertheless, there is still a gangster movie theme that this Japanese film follows, and it centers on common themes that you often see in gangster films. We are talking about corruption, violence, and betrayal, among others.
One of the characters of the movie, however, has his own Yakuza-like gang despite the fact that it is generally a cop movie. Of course, the overall aesthetics of the movie isn’t quite as similar as some of the other gangster movies on this list, as it has a distinct slapstick kind of appeal that makes it very similar to Indian movies. There are also offensive themes that not all people are going to be comfortable with. But, overall, it makes for a great and entertaining movie that has that gangster appeal.
14. Drug War (2012)
Another gangster movie that doesn’t necessarily follow the stories of gangsters but of corrupt cops that tend to act as criminals is the drug war. The story follows a cop that poses as a criminal so that he can infiltrate the underground drug world. In that regard, it kind of has the same undercover cop appeal that you often see in western movies but follows a kind of comedic and humorous approach.
However, the movie also allows us to see cops in a different light, as they can act like gangsters, especially when they are up against people who are quite known in the world of drugs. They are shown as people that are just as trigger-happy as the criminals they fight, and this is what makes it similar to western drug movies as well. As such, it makes for an entertaining movie that allows you to see the different things that go into the war against the drug world.
13. Sonatine (1993)
Sonatine is one of the movies that tried to redefine the gangster movie genre in Japan as it attempted to portray the Yakuza-type storyline in a somewhat unique way during the 90s. Of course, the 90s saw an economic bubble that Sonatine tried to portray well in this Yakuza film, as it showcased a somewhat eccentric storyline that made it quite unique compared to the older Yakuza movies before the 90s.
In that regard, the storyline seems to be quite minimalistic in its approach because there weren’t a lot of deep plots that were explored. Instead, the movie focused more on violence and death. As such, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the movie is about, but it still is a fun movie to watch if you’re into near plotless movies that don’t require a lot of meditation for you to understand and enjoy.
12. Godspeed (2016)
Godspeed is a movie that focuses on Taiwanese gangsters and is somewhat deep in its approach in the sense that it allows us to see the gangster culture in Taiwan and how such a culture can be relatable to us. In most cases, American gangster movies often portray the American dream culture where the characters are in it for the money but tend to do immoral things that detaches them from the people around them. In this case, Godspeed is almost the opposite of their American counterparts.
The movie portrays the Taiwanese gangsters in a way that makes them look like country people instead of city people, as it is clear that they aren’t entirely fond of the city. On top of that, Godspeed often allows us to see how beautiful the Taiwanese countryside can be, as compared to American gangster movies that tend to focus more on city-based storylines. This makes this movie quite interesting in terms of its approach, as it tends to be simple compared to other gangster movies.
11. Mr. Six (2015)
The thing about Mr. Six is that it doesn’t have the conventional shootout that we often see in gangster movies. That’s because it is geared and focused more on realism as it focuses more on the central character named Mr. Six. In that regard, it doesn’t give us the usual action scenes we often see in a lot of different gangster movies as it focuses more on the life and realizations of Mr. Six and how he sees the world around him.
There are two focus points that the movie tends to allow audiences to see. The first is the relationship that Mr. Six has with his son, and the second is the evolution of the world outside of the tiny bubble he lives in. There are also other topics that would interest people, such as the role of women in society and the difference between the previous and current generations in terms of their values. Overall, it tends to be an introspective movie that gives us a good idea of how Mr. Six sees the world.
10. Demon (1985)
Demon is a classic Japanese gangster movie that follows the story of a former gangster that ended up retiring to a tiny coastal village during winter so that he could start life anew and wipe off the remnants of his former life. In that regard, he now seeks to live a quiet and peaceful life with his family as a fisherman in that village. But things don’t always go the way former gangsters plan.
That’s because his past haunts him and chases him to the village as a heroin-addicted gangster tries to lure him back to his former life. In that regard, this character-driven storyline is quite intriguing in how it was able to portray the Yakuza style in a manner that is different yet still familiar when compared to the Yakuza movies of that era. In that regard, it shows us a true Yakuza movie in every sense of the word, as it has a way of lulling us into the popularity of this genre, which was popular back in the day.
9. Breathless (2008)
Breathless is a unique one-man show that allows us to see a single man that wrote, directed, and played the central role of the movie. Of course, this Korean movie also does a good job of showcasing a film that is mostly autobiographical as it was able to focus on a story that talks about domestic violence. And the best part about how the movie portrays this concept is that there are no constraints in terms of the mental, emotional, physical, and verbal abuses that were shown.
In that regard, Breathless can be somewhat hard to stomach for a lot of people due to how it can be quite grotesque. However, it sends a clear message about what domestic violence is about and how it never ends. The movie also doesn’t give the audience any time to feel melodramatic despite the fact that there is a lot of drama exuding from the performances of the character in this film.
8. Nameless Gangster (2012)
Nameless Gangster focuses on the story of gangsters that try to obtain superiority as they want to be the biggest and greatest gang. In that regard, they are pushed toward their dark moves by yearning to be the best gang in the streets of Korea. That means that this movie is basically as traditional as it can get when it comes to gangster movies with gang wars and violence.
The focus is on a dishonest and corrupt customs officer facing inquiry regarding his corruption. After a while, he ends up getting himself entangled with drug smuggling as he looks to sell the drugs and then leave his job so that he can finally live a carefree life. That was when he became acquainted with a famous gangster and crime lord that seemed like a man that could open a new life for him but could be more than what he bargained for.
7. Dragnet Girl (1933)
Dragnet Girl is actually a Japanese gangster movie that is quite similar to its American counterparts because the director of this 1933 classic did not keep his love for American films a secret. In that regard, this film pays homage to the gangster culture that we often see in the west. As such, the setting of the movie is the progressive city of Yokohama, as this is what has often been quite common in the American setting.
The story focuses on a character with a respectable job that subsidizes the lifestyle of a former boxing champ. In that regard, they often spend the nights in American-styled cocktail bars and boxing gyms. This lifestyle pushes the former boxing champ to the traditional younger sister of one of his new gangmates as the movie shows us a somewhat western storyline that still has Japanese elements.
6. New World (2013)
While New World may be a gangster movie, it is actually a mystery movie as well. There are a lot of things to love about this Korean film, as it can get pretty intense and full of suspense as well. In that regard, fans of movies that are quite unique in their own genres should be able to enjoy New World due to how it combines a lot of different elements in an entertaining movie.
New World follows the story of an undercover cop working in the National Police Agency. However, he has to sneak into a powerful criminal gang, as he spent eight years with the group. But the death of the gang’s leader demanded a new head to step up, and this is where the plan of the character and the police comes into motion. It promises to be a great and enjoyable film that different gangster movie fans should be able to love.
5. Rough Cut (2008)
Rough Cut is one of the best Korean gangster movies because of how it allows us to see two different worlds in gangster society. We see different perspectives, as one of the characters is playing a criminal while the other one is actually a criminal. In that sense, we get to see how difficult it is for someone who has already gotten used to the criminal life to change, as we also get to see how difficult it is for the other character to actually play the role of a criminal.
The movie showcases the relationship between the characters and how conflict became the key ingredient to the way they showcased their relationship. While they were initially in conflict with one another, the truth was that they were actually in conflict with themselves. As such, this is a very deep movie that allows us to look into the lives and the inner struggles that the characters go through in a gangster-type movie setting.
4. The Man From Nowhere (2010)
The Man From Nowhere is a Korean gangster movie that allows us to see a rather selfless gangster-type character in a setting that usually doesn’t include selfless characters. Of course, you should also expect a lot of action coming from this film as it is a pleasing ride that fans of the gangster genre should be able to enjoy.
The story focuses on a widower that runs a pawnshop but is actually a man struggling with a dark past. As such, he prefers to live a silent life but ends up getting involved in the world of drug smuggling due to one of the neighborhood women, who is actually involved in narcotraffic. As such, he is pulled into a life that he never wanted to be in because he would rather live a quiet and peaceful life.
3. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
Gangs of Wasseypur is an Indian movie that allows us to see a somewhat western approach in the way that the film was done due to how it has a mafia-styled theme and is actually quite fond of using the slow and stop motion that we often see in the early Guy Ritchie films. In that regard, it is actually a pleasing movie to the senses due to how it was able to combine audio and visual elements perfectly. Some would even say that this is a cinematographic masterpiece in its genre.
The storyline was able to deliver its part as well due to how it includes several interesting characters that can be quite intriguing to fans of gangster movies. However, there is a lot of violence in this movie, as it can be quite bloody and gory. Still, it was able to portray the gangster lifestyle of Indian society perfectly, as it didn’t pull any punches in delivering the true nature of this side of the Indian world.
2. Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013)
Hwayi: A Monster Boy is another masterpiece of a Korean gangster movie that could attract the attention of any movie fan. It is also one of the best Korean movies when it comes to the way it showcases the gangster side of Korean society, as it has a good way of making us see the best things that make Korean gangster movies so attractive to fans of this genre.
The story of Hwayi focuses on one son that was raised by five fathers that are all skilled gangsters. However, the son was a kidnapped boy that they raised together to become a murderer with all of the skills of his five fathers. However, what he doesn’t know is that he is a kidnapped boy, and this is something that he learns in the middle of the movie. As such, the truth changed a lot of things for the boy.
1. Asura: The City of Madness (2016)
If you want a dark Korean movie that focuses on the storyline of the characters, then Asura: The City of Madness should be right up your alley. The movie focuses on different characters that have dark personalities that make them nowhere close to being decent or likable. However, it is the way that the movie was able to portray their lives and their storylines that make them so relatable and human. As such, it is a masterpiece in terms of its storytelling despite the fact that it doesn’t have the same kind of action scenes that are prevalent in the other movies on this list.
The movie follows different stories that are all centered on the corrupt practices of a mayor who has criminal connections to the underworld and is a true gangster in every sense of the word. It is the fact that he was elected to this position that proves that the city itself has become a shell of its former self. As such, special prosecutors are working to find a way to arrest the mayor but end up doing things that make them look like criminals as well. In a sense, the movie is as dark as it can be because everyone in the storyline is willing to go to extreme lengths to get what they want in a film that allows us to see the dark side of politics and justice.