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"Fate", When Pretty Boys Go Bad

2008/03/20 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

In the star-studded gangster film "Fate", friends become foes and "pretty" actors get rough. Actor-turned-director Kim Hae-gon casts hallyu TV stars kwon Sang-woo ("Stairway to Heaven") and Song Seung-heon ("Autumn in my Heart") and other familiar faces to play unfamiliar roles.

"Fate" is a quintessential commercial flick that feeds on star power, provocative action and melodrama. While weak storytelling and exhausting running time wane the fun, the actors' engaging performances fill in the missing links.

In the dark criminal world of Seoul, U-min (Song), Cheol-jung (Kwon), Do-wan (Kim In-kwon) and Yeong-hwan (Ji Sung) are close friends in a gang. One day, with the help of an older member Gang-seop (Ahn Nae-seong), U-min, Cheol-jung and Do-wan attack the gang's casino so they can start new lives. But their plan goes awry when Cheol-jung betrays them, and U-min goes to prison. He becomes the scapegoat to save his friends' lives.

After serving his time, U-min wants to stay out of trouble but is drawn back into the underworld when he sees what has become of his friends: money and power-hungry Cheol-jung continues to betray others as he climbs up the gang ladder; Do-wan is a drug user; Gang-seop is missing; and his girlfriend Eun-yeong (Park Han-byul) has left him to run a bar as the boss' mistress.

As U-min tries to solve the situation, however, unfortunate twists of fate set off one misunderstanding after another. To make matters worse, the mob boss and right-hand man Yoeng-hwan get them involved in a huge drug deal. Once again thrown into a game with high stakes and big cash, the once best friends must fight one another for their lives.

Most of the drama centers around the "star-crossed friends", U-min and Cheol-jung. The unfortunate timing of certain events suggests that the friends are doomed to double, triple, quadruple-cross one another. It's all about lustful people destroying themselves because of dirty money.

Different sides are armed with a small army of mobsters, with a simple argument leading to full-fledged war. But as action sequences, emotional breakdowns and other climactic moments unravel one after another, the viewer must try to make sense of the confusion.

There are snippets showing the good old days when everyone was happy (like a friendly football match where, as a service to fans, the pretty boys appear topless), as well as occasional narrations by the main protagonist U-min. But it's all rather awkwardly weaved and a bit far fetched.

It's larger than life movie, where "beautiful" gangsters sporting sleek suits and an occasional scar win fights with odds of 30:1. Kwon is delightful in his role as a villain. Even though 99 percent of his lines are profanities, it's hard not to warm up to his rather comic character. Song, on the other hand, is a more moody, romantic kind of gangster. While wearing ugly clothes, he still manages to break women's hearts with his soulful eyes.

Kim In-kwon ("My Father") deserves applause as a harrowing drug addict obsessing over his ex-girlfriend. The sole heroine, Park Han-byul, while also showing the hardships of life, adds little to the plotline. She's just another damsel in distress.

The director tries to make a film a la Kwak Gyeong-taek, breaking down handsome actors' chiseled, Greek god image by making them swear and do some high kicks. Following in the footsteps of heartthrobs Jang Dong-gun ("Friend") and Joo Jin-mo ("A Love"), Song and Kwon do prove they can do more than just smile and cause ladies to swoon.

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