Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Master: Ponzi Schemes Get Deadly
will probably be the closest we ever get to seeing Lee Byung-hun playing Bernie
Madoff. He is even sporty a wavy silver mane. To be fair, Jin Pyun-gil is also
considerably more violent than the former Chuck Schumer donor. Jin is one
ruthless cat, but his felonious house of cards could come crashing down when
his systems guy turns state’s evidence, assuming the slippery rogue stays
turned in Cho Ui-seok’s Master (trailer here), which opens tomorrow
in New York.
is natural financial Elmer Gantry, who almost convinces himself with his
empowerment spiel. Of course, Park Jang-gun and “Mama” Kim Eom-ma know better.
Technically, he is Jin’s systems director and she is head of PR, but all three
have been in on the con for the start. The stakes really increase when Jin’s
One Network announces its bid to buy a major savings bank. With the central
bank chairman in Jin’s pocket, only Capt. Kim Jae-myung, an elite financial
crimes investigator stands in their way, but he has leverage over the likably
Master is the sort of
capery con film, where each double-cross leads to a triple or even quadruple.
Park is a cad and Kim is a cold fish, but Jin is a seriously flamboyant villain
(who knew Lee Byung-hun had it in him?), so it is just good clean fun to watch
the two heart-throbs conspiring against the international superstar.
is also a pleasant surprise to watch Gang Dong-on (The Priests, Vanishing Time) knock it out of the park as the
awkwardly cerebral Capt. Kim, arguably sharing a kinship with Columbo and “L.”
from the Death Note franchise. Lee
Byung-hun clearly enjoys chewing the scenery, while Kim Woo-bin similarly has a
blast playing up Park’s picaresque ethical flexibility. Yet, Jin Kyung
frequently upstages everyone as “Mama” Kim, the glamorous grifter. Plus, Oh
Dal-su does his thing as an oily public interest attorney secretly doing Jin
Master is sort of part of the cynical
zeitgeist manifested in recent Korean public corruption thrillers like Inside Men and A Violent Prosecutor, it does not have a similarly exaggerated sense
of itself (with its two hour, twenty-minute running time being pretty standard
by Korean standards). Regardless, it is devilishly entertaining to watch the
all-star cast scheme and play each other. Cho keeps the shoes dropping at a
brisk gallop, nicely showcasing his ridiculously photogenic ensemble. Highly
recommended for fans of ziggy-zaggy crime thrillers, Master opens tomorrow (1/6) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Lee Byung-hun