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'The Devil's Game' plays in wrong arena

2008/01/21 | 1565 views | Permalink | Source

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"The Devil's Game", directed by Yoon In-ho, is a thriller with plot twists playing an important role to intrigue the audience and ignite their imagination. But the movie might have had much greater impact if it had been a comedy.

Based on a Japanese comic series, "The Devil's Game" revolves around the wildly imaginative situation where two people change their bodies. But the film has some big holes in its logic, undercutting its claim to be a hard-core thriller.

A street painter named Hee-do (Shin Ha-kyun) does not have much money, but he is nice and kind, especially to his innocent-looking girlfriend Hye-rin (Lee Eun-sung). Their relationship, however, is not without problems.

Hye-rin's family is debt-laden and gangsters often arrive and demand repayment of a loan.

The basic situation is chiefly designed to remind the audience that Hee-do is very sensitive about money. To be more specific, he is eager to make money for his girlfriend. Love, after all, transcends everything, and money is no exception.

Unfortunately, love alone does not generate money. Something should be exchanged to get money in this capitalist society where there is no free lunch. One day, Hee-do is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hit the jackpot.

No-shik (Byun Hee-bong) is a financial big-shot. But he has his own problem. A fatal one, actually. His body is rapidly failing, and when he suffers one of his many heart attacks, he has to resort to sheer luck to recover. No-shik notices that Hee-do is in need of some money. That's how "The Devil's Game" plays out.

In fact, "The Devil's Game" is not a game at all, since the format is mobile phone betting. The rule, No-shik explains, is that they come up with each number for the random mobile phone number, and they also take sides about whether the recipient is male or female. Under this simple rule, superrich No-shik stakes part of his personal wealth -- amounting to 3 billion won ($3.1 million). Since Hee-do is a poor artist, he has to offer his own body as a stake for the dangerous bets.

Cutting straight to the preposterous, cartoonish and unrealistic betting's result -- they swapped bodies. No-shik is reborn as a young man who can go out and spend his fortune at bars, sleeping with women and partying at will. Hee-do, trapped in an old man's body, is saddled with not only poverty, but also imminent death.

The message is simplistic. Borrowing the preachy comment of No-shik, who is now touting his transformed body, every bet has a consequence and the gambler should take full responsibility.

Aside from the ostensible message, the movie has to take care of the negative consequences of its own. When Hee-do tries to reverse the situation by pretending to be a top CEO, widely reported to have died of old-age, why not just call the TV stations and expose what he has gone through? After all, he has all the scars from the extensive operations to prove his case.

Another serious gap in logic is that after the surgery is done, the greedy and merciless No-shik just let Hee-do, now in his old body, wander away. If No-shik is in his right mind, he certainly would not let the only proof of his brilliant scam walk live to tell the tale.

Despite the defective plot, Shin Ha-kyun and Byun Hee-bong showcase their seasoned acting talent, and especially Sin's versatility to act out an old man, including gestures, voice and facial expressions, is amusing to watch. Their body-changing performances might have shined much brighter if the movie had gone through a surgical operation in genre from a thriller to a comedy.

By Yang Sung-jin

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