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A 2006 Korean film.

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YOU Will REAP What You SOW...

  • Feb 14, 2010

There has been an overflow of South Korean crime thrillers and even Hong Kong crime dramas have lost a lot of its gritty charisma. A DIRTY CARNIVAL is a crime thriller that has achieved something that other Korean thrillers have failed to do. Director/writer Yu Ha (Once Upon a Time in High school) has delivered a crime thriller that is gritty, realistic, emotionally-driven with well-rounded characters that absolutely rivals the best crime dramas that seemed mixed in the usual Hong Kong grittiness with a bit of “Good Fellas” mixed in.
Byung-Doo Kim (Jo-In Seong) is a 29 year old petty gangster who is burdened with the responsibility of caring for an ailing mother, a brother who wants to become a gangster and his family is about to lose their home. He realizes that he cannot continue on like this and he has to also take care of his gang under gang Lieutenant Sang Chul (Yoon Jae Moon). Byung-Doo seizes the moment when the Gang’s main Boss; Hwang (Jeon Ho-Jin) who is pestered by a corrupt prosecutor and volunteers to take care of the problem by performing a “whack” job on the corrupt official. Byung-Doo is on the quick rise to power among the ranks, and his “gangster” career seems very secure. One day, he crosses paths with a childhood friend who is also an aspiring movie director named Min-Ho (Nam Gung-Min). Min-Ho wants to get background information on real-life gangsters to create his new film. Byung-Doo finds himself in a web of murder and betrayal in a world where trust and mercy doesn’t exist.

          A Dirty Carnival

The film is very interesting to watch; and unlike most Hollywood mob dramas which portray gangsters as cool, conniving characters, the director instead delivers a film that humanizes the Gang member persona. Byung-Doo is a kindhearted individual entangled in a web of deception and betrayal with no way out but to try to survive. The old adages ‘make it big or die in the attempt’ and "Get Rich or Die Trying" is actually the film’s main theme including family, love and loyalty. The film actually has three elements that make the film very powerful; the rise and fall of Byung-Doo, his love for childhood friend Hyun-Ju (Lee Bo-young) and the love for his family, and the movie within the movie subplot perpetrated by Min-Ho. What would happen if all these pieces of his world collide? Byung-Doo is a decent man in some ways but utterly ruthless in some. He is a fool that believes in his own code that will lead him on the path to ruin.
Now this film is not a weak drama even though there is a lot of emotions underlying in the interactions and reactions. The film does have a lot of violence going for it, there are a lot of brutal fights which is beautifully shot with its realism. As with Yu Ha’s previous film; knives, baseball bats and steel pipes are the weapon of choice. The fights are very well done and full of visceral impact. The action sequences are bloody and brutal; and most important of all, very realistically cruel. Yu Ha has created a film which is very dark and only gets darker as the film progresses. There is a lot of adrenaline as the film has a lot of brutality displayed throughout. The movie within a movie subplot is also very effective. This added element actually gives the film a lot of credibility which brings us to its main strength; three dimensional characters.

    A Dirty Carnival  Jo In Sung - A Dirty Carnival
The characters in the film are well-developed and backed up with a strong screenplay. True, some may argue that at 141 minutes, the film may run overly long but each second is put to good use. The film is never boring and is full of emotional content. True, the film’s premise may not be something we haven’t seen before but the execution is nearly flawless. Each character is introduced carefully with their own backgrounds and specifically Byung-Doo’s love interest Hyun-Ju which I feared was a simple plot device but she turned out to be a very viable one. So, the director actually spends a lot of time for the audience to get to know our characters. Head Boss Hwang (Jeon Ho-jin) may emulate somewhat of a laid back boss but don’t be fooled by his appearance, he is quite ruthless as they come. Byung-Doo’s gang lives on their own set of rules such as never to look sloppy and always look well-groomed, their gang integrity is all important. They are a family because they eat from the same table, well-mannered and disciplined in their own way. Even the gang itself is full of depth which I can definitely applaud the director for taking this step.
“A Dirty Carnival” is a crime thriller that warrants a look because of its straight-forward, no nonsense, none glorification of crime elements. The film effectively portrays crime as something to be avoided, although it doesn’t point an accusing finger as to why Byung-Doo would stoop to such levels. The film is very solid in its execution that the viewer can forgive its somewhat slow-paced scenes and overlong running time. Director Yu has created a world that is somber but at the same time ruthless and full of violent atmosphere. Kudos to the filmmakers for not forgetting even for one second just how it really is to be a gangster. Intense and full of emotional content, this film will keep you glued to your seat.
Full of grittiness and realism, I stand impressed of Yu Ha’s handiwork.

YOU Will REAP What You SOW... YOU Will REAP What You SOW... YOU Will REAP What You SOW... YOU Will REAP What You SOW...

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February 22, 2010
Movie sounds cool. So gangsta! The photos wouldn't load though... maybe the site doesn't allow hotlinking?
February 22, 2010
photos went away? ohno. I have to fix it...sorry!
February 22, 2010
There you go, all fixed, Lady D! Had to get the photos somewhere else..
February 22, 2010
Nice! *swoon* ;P
February 22, 2010
LOL! I knew it! I wonder if you know Takeshi Kaneshiro or Jay Chou...my lady friends just love them!
February 14, 2010
No glorifying crime, eh? Then maybe I could actually make it through this one. The last one I tried was AMERICAN GANGSTER, and that was only because of Russell Crowe.
February 15, 2010
This was a good crime thriller. It humanizes the gangster instead of glorifying their bold deeds. I bet you are watching the new ROBIN HOOD film with Crowe and Ridley Scott at its helm!
February 15, 2010
Wow! I didn't even know about that one! Is it out already or is it currently in production? I never miss a Crowe film if I can help it.
February 15, 2010
I think it's to be released this summer.Here's the trailer. What's your fave Crowe flick?
February 15, 2010
That's hard. I like almost everything he's done but I think it might be 3:10 TO YUMA because it feels so much like he's doing a a character from a Japanese film--sort a masterless samurai with his own set of rules to live by,
February 15, 2010
that is true, but I always give Ridley Scott directed movies a shot. Have you seen the extended cut of GLADIATOR and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? KOH is most especially a different movie.. I need to review 3:10 to YUMA, that is a great observation, Karen.
February 15, 2010
I don't think I've seem the directo's cut of either one. I happened to read a book on the Knights Templar just before seeing KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
February 15, 2010
wow! That must've been one interesting read.
February 15, 2010
It was. I sought it out because I was interested in why the Templars turned up so often as villains in European horror flix so long after their demise. (THE BLIND series, THE CHURCH, lots of others)
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William ()
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A Dirty Carnival is poet/filmmaker Yu Ha's fourth feature film. Released in 2006, this film noir sold 1.6 million tickets.
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