Moo-hyeok is going through a divorce with his pregnant wife, who works in a gallery. Furthermore, he is about to lose his job because he investigated the corruption of an individual, whose company happens to be a big sponsor of the news channel he is working for. When he receives a call from a woman who claims to know something about the serial killings recently occurring, he thinks he found a scoop. As he comes across the truth, though, he feels like he has no other choice but to fabricate facts to create news. This act results in a chain reaction, which, on the one hand reinstates him with a promotion and a large raise, but also has terrible repercussions. The involvement of a police detective makes his position even worse.
Roh Deok directs and pens a film that starts as a comedy of sorts, regarding the way the news media and particularly the reporters and their bosses' function. This comic sense is chiefly attained through Cho Young-wook's music, which is "goofy" enough to make some scenes that are not humorous at all, function in that fashion. The result is somewhat confusing, not to mention out of place. As the story progresses though, the seriousness takes over, as the film becomes an agonizing thriller, including a shocking scene of disclosure. There is also a secondary story regarding Moo-hyuk's wife, Soo-jin and a painter named Kim, which stays in the background for the most part, though, until the end of the film.
If Moo-hyeok is presented as a poor guy who is in over his head with what his initial act is causing, the exact opposite applies to his bosses, general manager Baek and director Moon. They are depicted as ruthless individuals, who will stop at nothing to reach the widest possible audience and subsequently, to make money. In front of the power money has provided them with, even the police seems powerless, as exemplified by chief Oh. Furthermore, the depiction of the police is as a prey, initially of Moo-hyuk's fabrications, then of director Baek's influence, and lastly, of the facts.
Jo Jung-suk is great as Moo-hyeok, elaborately portraying the growing agony of his character. Lee Mi-sook as general manager Baek and Kim Eui-sung as director Moon portray their ruthless and smug characters to perfection and Bae Sung-woo is functional as chief Oh, a character that seems to know what he is doing in the beginning, but ends up as a simpleton shouldering all of the responsibility.
Technically, the film implements aesthetics similar to that of Hollywood, for the most part, as exemplified in the various scenes in the newsroom and the way it functions. Park Yong-soo-I's cinematography moves in that direction, as does the editing. After the disclosure, however, the general atmosphere of the film becomes the regular one met in so many S. Korean crime thrillers, with the quick pace and the graphic depiction of violence.
"The Exclusive : Beat the Devil's Tattoo" is a very entertaining film that would be even better, if the director knew from the beginning, what exactly he wanted to do.
The film is part of the excellent Asian selection of Fantasia International Film Festival that will be on in Montreal until August 3.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Available to order from YESASIA
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "The Exclusive: Beat the Devil's Tattoo" "
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[HanCinema's Korea Diaries] "Bucheon" July 20th-21st
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