THE SHOW MUST GO ON (a.k.a. Uahan Segye) was a blockbuster hit in South Korea; with its inimitable cast led by Kang-Ho Song (Thirst, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) with direction by Han Jae Rim, one of Korea's distinguished directors, the film really sparked my interest. At first glance, I didn't know what to expect; the cover suggested a comic satire. Little did I expect a film with a great play on different genres.
Kang In-gu is an ordinary guy at first impression. He is married to a pretty wife, a father to two children. He worries about his daughter who isn't doing too well in school. He works hard to move his family out of their apartment with bad plumbing into a house they can call their own. He provides for his son who is studying abroad. All in all, not bad, right? Except that In-gu is a gangster; he is anything but ordinary. What happens when his two worlds start to collide?
After all the Korean crime dramas I've seen of late, it is very refreshing to watch this film. Instead of being an intense gangster film, "The Show Must Go on" is more a taste of irony. The usual stuff about gangsters are present in this film; In-gu uses crude violence and intimidation to get what he needs, he calls in his goons to enforce their ways and bribes people to get what he wants. However, the film shows these in a very human level that makes the film more emotionally involving. The first act of the film is actually funny; there are a lot of satirical nods but the film takes on a different tone and becomes darker and darker until the final act of the film. The movie is also a family drama rather than a straightforward crime drama; it makes an effort to delve into the mind of a gangster who is ONLY doing what he does to provide for his family and because he has little choice but to do so. He doesn't particularly enjoy what he does for a living but it is necessary to provide for his family's needs. In-gu's family develops a dislike for his profession and this is where everything becomes interesting. Suddenly his petty squabbles with his fellow gang leaders seem irrelevant.
Han's direction is very inspired, while the film's main weakness may be that the characters and the plot are a bit more drawn out than what we're used to, the way he structured everything is quite inventive. The action scenes, family and gangster issues are well spaced out, and the film also has several light-hearted moments that could make the viewer feel sympathy for In-gu despite his failings. The film is realistically shot, and follows the style of a morality play, which is VERY fitting to the film's theme. Camera angling is simple and has a very natural feel. While the cinematography isn't as stylish as other Korean films, it blends well with the film's premise and quite frankly a welcome break from the "superficially" shot films of similar nature.
Kang-ho Song is a phenomenal actor; it would be very difficult to imagine someone else playing the role of In-gu. Song does a very convincing portrayal of the lead role, and believe me, the role felt tailor-made for him. It is little wonder that this actor is so renowned in Korea, he brings life into every role I've seen him in. Oh Dal-soo plays In-gu's old friend who is connected to a rival gang and TV actress Park Ji-Young plays his wife. Park Ji-Young surprised me with her performance, she manages to express the needed emotions and she adds more credibility to her character.
The film while good, does have several plot missteps as there were a succession of errors that defies logic and improbability. While it doesn’t exactly ruin the film’s viewing experience, but it does make one scratch his head. It seems like several of In-gu’s gang rivals were either too polite or a little inept, as for the manner that In-gu could get away so easily. (examples are the scenes in the hospital parking lot, the cross gate and the overpass. I don’t think gangsters who make their living off intimidation could make those many mistakes. However, don’t let its mistakes turn you off from the film, as its assets do overshadow its flaws.
To the film's credit, "The Show Must Go On" focuses on family relationships and a gangster's role within his "other" family, instead of focusing on a gangster's effect on society. The movie will draw you in with its manner of balancing effective gangster drama, understated humor and the parental theme about a good-hearted but wayward father. The film doesn't give a judgment on In-gu's actions or points an accusing finger on his family, In-gu becomes quite a compelling character in the hands of director Jae-Rim Han as the audience is left to decide for themselves. It is a very worthy effort by Han who is one of South Korea's rising directors.
The film takes a look at In-gu's character and asked a moral question: People can call you whatever they want; gangster or family man? A DESTROYER of lives or a PROVIDER to live? A means to an end or an end to a means?
In the end, all that matters is what you choose....or is it?
RECOMMENDED! [4- Out of 5 Stars]
I have the (region-3) 2-disc release from KD Media. VIDEO/AUDIO: 2.40 Anamorphic Widescreen. The picture is very good and clean, with minor enhancements on some scenes. Colors are natural with a very deep contrast. 5.1 Dolby Digital is very clear and powerful. (Don't need DTS) English Subtitles are excellent with minor typos.
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