J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ktown Cowboys: Let the Soju Flow

Chris Rock does not believe guys like this exist. They are Asians who have more fun than you do—maybe even more fun than he does. These five friends know the in’s and out’s of the nightlife in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. However, they are getting slightly less young than they used to be. Reluctantly, they will have to deal with growing up stuff in Daniel Park’s Ktown Cowboys (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Tonight, they are celebrating a birthday, but it is not so unusual for the five lads to meet in a bar. Each is having a hard time of things lately, especially the formerly privileged Jason. Despite his lack of ambition and talent, he assumed control of his family’s multi-million-dollar corporation. Unfortunately, the firm’s valuation took a serious hit when his openly contemptuous vice-president was arrested for embezzlement. His uncle, the head of the Korean division of the business is flying in to give him a stern talking to, which is guaranteed to be uncomfortable.

Robby is also miserable dealing with a ridiculous inappropriate boss. Things are getting so bad, he is seriously considering his adopted parents’ advice to return to Korea and hopefully reconnect with his heritage. However, that would complicate his relationship with his Anglo-American fiancée. Sunny never enjoyed working at his family’s liquor store, but it is the burden of caring for his dementia suffering father that is really taking a toll. Insecure horndog Peter is just a mess, especially when it comes to his relationship with fashion design classmate Hanna, the daughter of a family friend he has promised to look out for. As for Danny, the aspiring stand-up comic, he just can’t get a job.

You probably expect Ktown to deliver plenty of lad magazine Entourage-style humor and you would not be wrong. At least, it is based on the premise they need to start getting serious. It is not a great on-screen showcase for women, but Mindy, Jason’s party girl cousin surprises with a bit of third act substance.

Regardless, Park and screenwriter-co-star Danny Cho certainly make Ktown after dark look like a blast. Of course, some of the specifics look more appealing than others. The after-hours soju joints look like cool hangs, but some of the rituals going on in hostess and host-boy clubs most of us can probably safely take a pass on.

Shane Yoon is legitimately charismatic as Jason and Danny Cho’s deadpan stand-up delivery is effectively droll (he was arguably too modest writing for his character). Angie Kim gives the film some real energy and verve as the supposedly very Ktown-ish Mindy, but Peter Jae is bit shticky as his imposing but awkward namesake.

We have had plenty of films based on television series, so it makes sense we’re now getting films based on webseries. It is amusing and even inclusive in a meathead kind of way. It also represents one of two or three hundred screen appearances by Eric Roberts this year. For the record, he is rather engaging as Robby’s dad. (Say what you will, the man’s work ethic is outstanding.) Admittedly shallow but breezily enjoyable, Ktown Cowboys opens this Friday (3/18) in New York, at the AMC Empire.