Roleplay (2012)

“I cried out endlessly!”

Words: Desmond Childs

 The main players in this one.

Jung-ho (played by Lee Dong-kyu) is a novelist willing to do whatever it takes to write a best-seller. His wife Ji-Soo is a teacher who often questions her husband’s commitment to their marriage. In fact, she begins to suspect he’s cheating on her. Is she onto something? Or can Jung-ho’s distant personality be explained by his commitment to the success of his novel? And what about the questions of infidelity? And just when it all begins to come together like a good romantic novel–it becomes an erotic-thriller.

 

This movie really sort of messed with my head at times. I understood the basic elements presented here, but for some reason the film still felt the need to backtrack. Let me explain my problem with backtracking or as I like to call it: doubling up on exposition: Whenever a movie makes the choice to backtrack to divulge more information about the story or a specific character–I think delivering that extra information in an almost completely incomprehensible, ambiguous way is unfair to the audience. Not in a “you fail at cinema” sort of way, but because as a member of the audience–I feel like I’m being teased. Like there’s an itch I can never scratch and not just because I can’t reach it–but each time I itch, it’s a different part of my body. I felt that level of confusion with Roleplay.

Jung-ho lived through a very traumatic experience. The sexual violence the movie flashes back to did not happen to him personally, but being beaten up and forced to watch it take place can be just as scarring, I get that. However, the movie wants me to believe the girl who was sexually molested was Jung-ho’s first ‘love’ where in reality she seemed more like the key to his sexual awakening. He realized she had boobs, that he liked how beautiful her legs were, and her being able to recite poetry was a plus. I understand that many first-loves double as a lot of our sexual awakenings, but for some reason Jung-ho never really showed anything more than an almost carnal desire for the young woman. In fact, it kind of creeped me out. With that being said, I was willing to run with the notion (at least) that this man lost someone he cared deeply about. So I begin to see Jung-ho, not necessarily as a depressed, middle-aged guy desperately missing his one true love. I instead saw him as a deranged, sexually charged person who got off on mistreating his wife (indifference) and having his sexual partners dress up as the first girl who ever gave him a boner. Maybe I’m coming down as a little crass, and a bit too harsh when it comes to the film’s intentions–but Jung-ho’s personality came off way more sleazy than earnest. He was detached from reality most of the time, and spent hours rolling around on the floor daydreaming about this poor girl who was raped and killed. It’s almost as if the only way Jung-ho could deal with that pain and loss–was to inflict sexual violence himself, which we do see in a scene or two with his wife, Ji-Soo. The movie also shows us that Jung-ho was simply using his mistress Hye-In (played by Han Ha-Yoo) to fulfill any sexual desire he had reserved for his long-lost first love. Hye-In apparently resembled her in looks, and although the personality didn’t match–Jung-ho demanded her to become more ‘timid’ and ‘shy’. Gross. Just gross, disturbing, and sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are some aspects of what I’ve interpreted from this picture that the filmmakers intentionally put in–but Jung-ho’s psyche was so much more interesting to me than his story. The film rattles along from his planning and plotting (in his novel and in his reality) toward a horrifying finish that didn’t necessarily stun me. Besides, one can only be ignored for so long, right?

At any rate, the three characters in this one did a solid job, and while director Baek Sang-Yeol’s hand seemed to muddle the already grainy characterization of Jung-ho–I was still entertained. And as I always say about movies–what’s the goal, if not to entertain the audience?

You can find Roleplay on Hulu.com as of July 4, 2014, watch it for free with no subscription required

 

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The Man From Nowhere (2010)

The_man_from_nowhere-5The-man-from-nowhere

“…because I’m her next door neighbor. I’m also quite bored, and bitter over the death of my fiance.”

Words: Desmond Childs

Cha Tae-Sik is a quiet, unassuming pawn shop owner; operating out of a cluttered workspace within a small neighborhood. And it’s these small, unassuming truths are exatcly the reason he appears so suspicious. Not suspicious in a “I’m actually a mass-murderer” way, but there appears to be more to the guy that meets the eye. Not to mention that he’s a bit of a recluse, preferring to keep to himself. In fact, only a neighbor’s daughter is nice enough to even conversate with Tae-Sik. While this one little social contact seems insignificant enough, Tae-Sik himself apparently values the “friendship” of this little girl well enough to embark on the rescue mission that serves as this films primary plot. I was very impressed with this movie, and have officially accepted it as the proper replacement for the entertainment value “I Saw The Devil” gruesomely robbed from me. Both rescue missions and quests for revenge require high stakes. I Saw The Devil was a revenge film in which the “protagonist” (outside of losing his finance) never really had to risk anything as opposed to his nemesis in the film. In this movie here, Tae-Sik is risking his life for the friendship he shares with this kid. I know that sounds pretty paper thin to bet a life on, but as I mentioned earlier Tae-Sik is a recluse and those types are always a little weird. Take Bruce Wayne for example, that guy leaps around pretending to be a winged mammal.

Directed By:

Jeong-Beom Lee

Lee_jeong-beom_image

Synopsis and Analysis: “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?”

Mr. Lee has yet to make a significant impact in the moviemaking industry although some have marked The Man From Nowhere as being his big breakthrough. Prior to his work on this film, Lee’s only other project was Cruel Winter Blues in which he wrote and directed. Debuting with Cruel Winter Blues and following up with a feature such as The Man From Nowhere, this writer-director has already showcased some skill.Although I have yet to see his debut film, the visual flair The Man From Nowhere carried throughout was a very entertaining experience. Many filmmakers strive to be able to tell an engrossing story to go along with all the blood and guts. Mr. Lee’s The Man From Nowhere helped the guy flex some movie making muscle. Lee’s already got a formula to build on, an engrossing, viceral experience is the craft he’s looking to master then perfect.

As I mentioned earlier, this movie is about a pawn shop owner named Cha Tae-Sik. The story kicks off when his next door neighbor, who is apparently a drug smuggler (Hyo-Jeong) who has double crossed the origanization she worked in. Now, to avoid losing her expensive product, see secretly hides the narcotics in Tae-Sik’s pawn shop. The organization captures both Hyo-Jeong and her daughter (So-mi) after learning that the product is with Tae-Sik. Then the organization sends henchmen to rough up and explain the reason for the kidnappings to Tae-Sik. However, Tae-Sik, mysterious past and all, beats the hell out of them and sends them running. He than embarks on an adventure to rescue the two from the organization. A lot of questions as to Tae-Sik’s past are answered throughout the film, such as the terrible tragedy he suffered many years earlier. There’s even a shocking little sub-plot involving serious child-labor law violations. And I mean serious violations. The Man From Nowhere succeeds in a number of aspects but, specifically shines in developing it’s tragic hero in a way I couldn’t help but compare to Robert Ludlum‘s The Bourne Identity. This film’s stylized action scenes also help justify that comparison with Tae-Sik’s fighting style being nearly indistinguishable. Awesome film though.

The Man From Nowhere can be found on Netflix‘s “Instant Watch” feature. Check out the trailer below:

Love in Between (2010)

S_love_in_between_13LoveLoveinbetween08-716x1024

 

words: desmond childs

 

Love in Between: “Games people play…”

Hot, steamy, romantic triangles are good tv. It really is, admit it. These types of movies and shows are perfect for date nights or rainy days. But all in all, they’re films made with the female demographic in mind, right? I mean, all the sex scenes, screaming, raging, jealousy-filled arguments in these films isn’t exactly what I’d call “hard-hitting” cinema. Well, maybe in a sense, but that’s gross thinking. Speaking of which, the sex in Love in Between is definitely, “in your face” with nudity peppered all throughout the first half of the film. As the movie draws towards it’s conclusion, the sex is exchanged for a few “big reveal” scenes and a bit of poetic, yet bitter-sweet justice.

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Directed By: Jeong Yun-Su (pictured above)

“Love, In Between” is Mr. Jeong’s latest foray, only this time it’s a hot, steamy, pile of…romance. See what I did there? Anyway, he’s been the helmer of 3 films prior to this one (My Wife Got Married in 2008, Love Now in 2007, Yesterday in 2002) and he was an assistant director on The Hair Dresser (1995). He’s also got some screen writing creds, penning My Wife Got Married and Yesterday. I honestly didn’t see anything extraordinary he did with his camera or some of the choices he makes. He puts the audience in the room with the characters, and it gave me the “fly-on-the-wall” feel throughout the film. The writers, of which Mr. Jeong is one, did a solid job developing the relationship between the girlfriend and “mistress”. By the end it felt like two sisters oggling over one another while unknowningly fueding over the same man. It’s a non-violent feud, but a feud all the same.

What we got going on here…

  The story itself is pretty straightforward. A couple, whose relationship seems headed toward marriage and children is threatened when the woman finds evidence her boyfriend is cheating on her. What makes this particular love-triangle (somewhat) interesting (at first) is that the girlfriend and “side-chick” end up becoming really, really close friends. When I say close, I mean close. At one point I thought I was watching the beginning of a live-action “yuri” manga adaption. Anyway, the closeness between the three lovers is truly felt throughout up until the very awkward climax and conclusion. The guy is caught between his love for his girlfriend and need to “pretect” her, and his “love” for a former student. The women in the film both suffer through feelings of jealousy, angry, empathy, sympathy, etc. The result is a story of three confused, and fickled individuals who make love, argue, backstab, and make-up. The impression it left on me and my girlfriend? We liked it. It’s a decently woven tale of love and betrayl in Korea; where poetic justice serves as the ultimate equalizer of sorts. That make sense? If not, the saying, “What comes around goes around” will probably suffice as a more coherent metaphor. 

 

Champion (2002)

Champion_2002_filmChamps

Champion: “I will fight until the end…”

Words: Desmond Childs

This was a nice change of pace. Bio pics usually ride the bottom of my queue if they make it at all, because of the limited amount of breathing room. Well, let me take that back, because you can easily add and subtract quite a bit to a biopic to freshen it up. These days the trend leans more toward the presentation of such biopics; with the information mostly accurate and the production value having been spruced up to raise the intrigue.

Directed By:

Kwak Kyung-taek

Kyungtaek

The south Korean director, Kyung-taek Kwak made his first feature in 1997 (3pm Bathhouse Paradise), but was not truly commended for his work until his feature Friend. The movie earned him several honors, including a Holden Award for the script at the Torino Film Festival. Champion also recieved an award at the Philadelphia Film Festival. With a larger budget, Mr.Kwak’s feature, Typhoon (2005) did not make enough of a return at the box office. Since then, he’s produced 2 projects but hasn’t been as active since 2008.

Synopsis and Analysis: “The sweet science gets a much needed rule review”

On the surface, Champion is nothing more than the story of Rocky the boxer transmogrified into a young asian lad. Duk Koo Kim grows up living a rough life. He gets into boxing rather early and has some success leading up to the fateful match against Boom Boom Manchini. The outcome of their match affected the sport of boxing in a very impactful way. Ultimately, I was numb to the feelings this film wanted me to have for the characters on screen. For the running time, I still never really got to know the lead character very well outside of his passion for boxing. Apparently the sport of boxing experienced somewhat of a boom during the late 70s and early 80s, so Duk Koo Kim’s particular rise through the ranks made him a frontrunner. At least in his country. Outside of Korea, he wasn’t as well known, even with the amateur record he held. Regardless, all that information is what I get instead of getting to see longer scenes of Duk Koo Kim’s boxing matches. In short, this had to be the least violent boxing movie I’d seen in recent memory. The sub-sub-sub plot involving the boxer’s love life felt so tacked on, with most of the screen time being reserved for training montages and Duk Koo Kim’s mentor spouting generic self-help quotes. The end result of the film, which prays the audience has found some aspect of the film to invest in emotionally; tries to wringe that bit of emotion out; and doesn’t quite cut it for me. I said this film was a nice change of pace, but it’s definietly a speed I can live without on most movie nights. Sorry.

 

Champion is on Netflix’s instant watch feature. For how long, I don’t know. Check out the trailer below:

The Man From Nowhere (2010)

The_man_from_nowhere-5The_man_from_nowhere_koreanmovie2010The-man-from-nowhere

“…because I’m her next door neighbor. I’m also quite bored, and bitter over the death of my fiance.”

Words: Desmond Childs

Cha Tae-Sik is a quiet, unassuming pawn shop owner; operating out of a cluttered workspace within a small neighborhood. And it’s these small, unassuming truths are exatcly the reason he appears so suspicious. Not suspicious in a “I’m actually a mass-murderer” way, but there appears to be more to the guy that meets the eye. Not to mention that he’s a bit of a recluse, preferring to keep to himself. In fact, only a neighbor’s daughter is nice enough to even conversate with Tae-Sik. While this one little social contact seems insignificant enough, Tae-Sik himself apparently values the “friendship” of this little girl well enough to embark on the rescue mission that serves as this films primary plot. I was very impressed with this movie, and have officially accepted it as the proper replacement for the entertainment value “I Saw The Devil” gruesomely robbed from me. Both rescue missions and quests for revenge require high stakes. I Saw The Devil was a revenge film in which the “protagonist” (outside of losing his finance) never really had to risk anything as opposed to his nemesis in the film. In this movie here, Tae-Sik is risking his life for the friendship he shares with this kid. I know that sounds pretty paper thin to bet a life on, but as I mentioned earlier Tae-Sik is a recluse and those types are always a little weird. Take Bruce Wayne for example, that guy leaps around pretending to be a winged mammal.

 

Directed By:

Jeong-Beom Lee

Lee_jeong-beom_image

Synopsis and Analysis: “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?”

Mr. Lee has yet to make a significant impact in the moviemaking industry although some have marked The Man From Nowhere as being his big breakthrough. Prior to his work on this film, Lee’s only other project was Cruel Winter Blues in which he wrote and directed. Debuting with Cruel Winter Blues and following up with a feature such as The Man From Nowhere, this writer-director has already showcased some skill.Although I have yet to see his debut film, the visual flair The Man From Nowhere carried throughout was a very entertaining experience. Many filmmakers strive to be able to tell an engrossing story to go along with all the blood and guts. Mr. Lee’s The Man From Nowhere helped the guy flex some movie making muscle. Lee’s already got a formula to build on, an engrossing, viceral experience is the craft he’s looking to master then perfect.

As I mentioned earlier, this movie is about a pawn shop owner named Cha Tae-Sik. The story kicks off when his next door neighbor, who is apparently a drug smuggler (Hyo-Jeong) who has double crossed the origanization she worked in. Now, to avoid losing her expensive product, see secretly hides the narcotics in Tae-Sik’s pawn shop. The organization captures both Hyo-Jeong and her daughter (So-mi) after learning that the product is with Tae-Sik. Then the organization sends henchmen to rough up and explain the reason for the kidnappings to Tae-Sik. However, Tae-Sik, mysterious past and all, beats the hell out of them and sends them running. He than embarks on an adventure to rescue the two from the organization. A lot of questions as to Tae-Sik’s past are answered throughout the film, such as the terrible tragedy he suffered many years earlier. There’s even a shocking little sub-plot involving serious child-labor law violations. And I mean serious violations. The Man From Nowhere succeeds in a number of aspects but, specifically shines in developing it’s tragic hero in a way I couldn’t help but compare to Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity. This film’s stylized action scenes also help justify that comparison with Tae-Sik’s fighting style being nearly indistinguishable. Awesome film though.

The Man From Nowhere can be found on Netflix’s “Instant Watch” feature. Check out the trailer below: