Monday, May 25, 2009

Rough Cut (Korea 2008)

The line between reality and fantasy are crossed in Rough Cut (영화는 영화다), a film that really asks it's audience to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained. That being said, if you can keep that in mind, this film can be quite entertaining indeed.

Gang-pae (So Ji-sub) is a rough-around-the-edges gang boss who's real dream in life has always been to be an actor. He admires the work of one of the biggest leading men in the industry, Soo-ta (Kang Ji-hwan), who fills every stereotype you can imagine pertaining to a stuck-up, entitled celebrity. Soo-ta is having a difficult time as of late because of his short-temper which resulted in him actually hitting one of his fellow co-stars. Now he has the paparazzi all over him and he's even beginning to lose some of his sponsorships. A chance encounter, where Gang-pae requests Soo-ta's autograph results in Gang-pae getting an idea of the type of person Soo-ta really is: a jerk. However disrespected, Gang-pae remains professional (whatever that means in the world of gangs) and shrugs off the encounter with Soo-ta. However, as things get worse for Soo-ta on the set of his movie, he realizes that the film isn't going to come out nearly as realistic as he'd like it to be, so he remembers Gang-pae's desire to become an actor. Gang-pae agrees to help out Soo-ta in his desperate time of need, but as his new official rival in the film he requests that all of the action must be real, including the fights. Soo-ta reluctantly agrees, much to the dismay of director Bong (Ko Chang-seok), because he realizes how much he needs this movie to succeed in order to become favorable with the studio and his audience again. As filming progresses however, the line between reality and film making begin to cross as Gang-pae's dangerous world refuses to take a back seat for his new hobby. Is it too late for Soo-ta to rebuild his image? And can Gang-pae really leave his life as a gangster behind him?

First things first, the premise of this film is quite absurd, because in what reality would a movie studio be willing to employ a "real" gangster in their film for the sake of realism? I'm sure it would not happen here in Hollywood, but I'm accepting the fact that it's a movie, or maybe I don't understand the behind-the-scenes aspect of Korean film making that well. Regardless, it just seems silly in a movie where everything is taken quite seriously to having such an odd element for the story. Premise aside, the acting in Rough Cut is actually quite excellent. Set aside the fact that Soo-ta is the biggest jerk you'll ever see, because that is the nature of his character, but Kang Ji-hwan plays it excellently. I particularly enjoyed So Ji-sub's performance as a man caught between the world he lives in and the world he dreams of. His desire is a great underlying piece in the film that brings out the most emotion in Rough Cut, because you really get a sense of how much he wants to act, but his circumstances don't seem to allow it. There are also some genuinely tense moments when you know that all of the action is "real" and you wonder how far the parties involved are willing to go.

There is a lot of good things going on in Rough Cut, and the performances are what help put it above the "average" label. Again, the story is a little bit out there but manages to be intriguing at times, and the general seriousness of the character's surroundings make it all worth watching. Well worth your time. (Lee)

Grade: B+

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