According to filmmaker Chung Ji-young, “The Boys” was originally titled “Accusation,” a stronger and more straightforward title to level accusations against authority.
“Changing the title to ‘The Boys’ had to do with the message I wanted to tell through the film. I wanted to show how those with power and authority approach the isolated, poor young boys, and how ordinary people like us don’t even care about those groups of minorities,” director Chung told The Korea Herald in an interview on Thursday.
“I thought that way of approaching the issue had to be included in the film,” he added.
"The Boys" revisits a 1999 case in which three teenagers were wrongfully convicted of robbery and murder after forced confessions.
His latest film follows “Unbowed” (2011) and “Black Money” (2019), which dealt with the true stories of a professor who went against a corrupt Korean judicial system in 2007 and the 2012 sale of the Korean Exchange Bank to American equity firm Lone Star Funds, respectively.
When asked about the reactions of the victims of the 1999 wrongful conviction, Chung simply showed a photo of a flower bouquet he had received during a recent special screening in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.
“One of the three boys from the 1999 case attended the movie screening and gave me this flower bouquet. I was so touched,” he said. In the photo, the bouquet had a simple message: “Thank You.”
“Of course, it’s a story that these boys wouldn’t want to talk about anymore. I did get their permission through an attorney, but I was also worried about their real reaction,” said Chung.
Chung said that the protagonist, veteran detective Hwang Joon-cheol, also based on a real figure who investigated the case in 1999, had to be played by Sol Kyung-gu. In the film, Hwang receives information on the real culprit and throws himself into reinvestigating the case. But his efforts are soon interrupted by detective Woo-sung (Yoo Jun-sang), who originally handled the case.
“From writing the scenario and shaping the characters, I was sure that it had to be Sol who played this role. If his schedule didn’t work, I was more than willing to fix mine for him to star in this movie,” said Chung.
“It’s true that this detective reminded me of Kang Cheol-joong,” Chung said. Kang is a detective character that Sol played in 2002's crime action thriller “Public Enemy.”
“Sol’s daredevil character was a good match with the real character. I remember Sol as someone who becomes so immersed in his character that he sometimes can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. Now, decades later, he has become an actor who can tell the difference,” he said, praising Sol as a “great actor.”
“The Boys” opens in local theaters Wednesday.