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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Royal Gambler" Episode 1

In the new slew of dramas "The Royal Gambler" came in on top at 11.8% again "Monster - 2016" (7.3%) and "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" (10.1%). Director Nam Geon's directing style is grand and direct, while Kwon Soon-gyoo's writing takes on its trademark meandering style. The two don't quite fit together, but the epic quality of the first episode cannot be denied, especially not with the exquisite background score and crisply filmed scenes.

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This first episode doesn't boast of the headliners. Jang Keun-suk as Baek Dae-gil makes a torturously short appearance, which seems a bit of a cheat after all the hype surrounding his return after a long acting hiatus. The "You're Beautiful" star hasn't had much luck in drama or film since his raging success in 2010 and is hoping for a solid comeback. That remains to be seen. And Yeo Jin-goo, well, we got to see about ten seconds of his face.

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The episode focused mostly on the pitiable Bok-soon (Yoon Jin-seo) and her gambling-addicted husband Baek Man-geum (Lee Moon-sik). While her plight is moving, the repetition of her tears and her fights with her husband, followed by his numerous trips to the gambling house was annoying and troublesome. It reminded me of the circular travels of the plot in "Goddess Of Fire Jeongi". Similar loops were found in "Warrior Baek Dong-soo" although that drama as a whole was much stronger than "Goddess Of Fire Jeongi". I worry that "The Royal Gambler"'s plot will focus mostly on gambling strategies and games rather than forward motion and character development. This episode saw over fifteen minutes of a gambling game. Not to mention King Sukjong (Choi Min-soo) spends most of his time chasing after a woman. It makes him seem desperate, and a bit laughable.

The absolute highlight of the episode was the music. It was glorious and well-composed, cleverly arranged and strongly put together. That was followed up by a close second: the cinematography. The choreography of the opening shots with the juxtaposed black and white colors, the falling snow, and the slow motion fighting was simply stunning. It was also a tad cheesy, but the beauty is what was to be appreciated.

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The often type-casted Jun Kwang-ryul does a good job as Lee In-jwa despite the fact that he's been relegated to yet another villanous role. Jeon has been in many of Writer Kwon's works and his roles don't vary much. I do appreciate this in "The Royal Gambler" his villain is a bit more subtle in approach. He manipulates people into doing his bidding rather than cackle and maim outright.

I admit, I don't see what the hype is about yet, but I'm hoping the show proves me wrong.

HanCinema viewers, what did you think of this episode? Are you anticipating good things of Jang Keun-suk's comeback and Yeo Jin-goo's first adult role?

Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'

"The Royal Gambler" is directed by Nam Geon, written by Kwon Soon-gyoo, and features Jang Keun-suk, Yeo Jin-goo, Jeon Kwan-ryeol, Choi Min-soo, Lim Ji-yeon, and Yoon Jin-seo.

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