Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: The Big Swindle (범죄의 재구성)

Seen a film at Cinema on the Park lately? Feel free to send through your reviews on the films and we will publish them here on the KOFFIA blog. Liked it? Hated it? We want to develop the discussion around Korean cinema! This week we have Nathan Wishart's thoughts on the heist film "The Big Swindle". 

South Korea’s ascent is built largely on genre deconstruction or delivering locally made entertainment to compete with Hollywood product so it’s no surprise that someone finally made a caper movie in the style of Ocean’s Eleven and The Sting. Director Choi Dong-Hoon delivers a stylish if somewhat familiar tale of con men after a big score. 

The film opens with a short car chase that, although impressive in scale, lacks any kind of energy. The car chase ends with a car driving through a tunnel then going off a cliff and exploding on impact. The victim is identified as Choi Chang-Hyok. Choi’s older brother Chung-Ho arrives to identify the body (Park Shin-Yang delivers a dual role performance as both brothers) and collect an insurance payout of $500 Million Won. Chung runs into the alluring Seo In-Kyung (Yeom Jeong-Ah) aka Sharon Stone and the two find an immediate bond. 

The police are on the hunt for the rest of the crew involved in a massive heist of $5 Billion Won from the bank of South Korea, top of their wanted list is Master Kim (Baek Yoon-Shik) and they intend to find him through the con-man called Big Mouth (Lee Min-Shik). The film fills in the gaps of what went wrong with the job mainly through flashbacks as we see Chang-Kyun pitch his idea to Master Kim and then recruit the rest of the gang including characters such as Gasoline and Swallow.

The elements of this film are all very familiar but Choi Dong-Hoon manages to keep things moving with a certain amount of panache and stylish direction. Park Yang-Shin delivers a remarkable dual performance as both Chang-Kyun and Chung-Ho as both characters are at polar opposites in terms of manner and character.

Baek Yoon-Shik is impeccably cool throughout the film until you realize how sleazy and dangerous he actually is towards the end; his scenes with Yeom Jeong-Ah reveal the sleaziness that he keeps under wraps with the illusion of cool. Yeom Jeong-Ah takes a cliché role and decides to have fun with it, with equal parts sass, toughness and deviousness. Choi clearly wasn’t interested in romanticizing these men, especially with the character of Swallow who turned out to be a douchebag with a violent streak in him. 

Elizabeth Connor (USYD) introduces The Big Swindle at COTP

There’s a certain amount of bait and switch required in a heist film, it largely hinges on a twist and this film is no different but the difference lies in how it’s executed and Choi manages to pull it off, thanks to his deft writing and stylish direction.

By Nathan Wishart

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