Early on, there's a nice parallel philosophical discussion between King Yeonsangun and Gil-dong where they ponder over what the true relationship and distinction is between the ruler and the ruled. The scenes are amusing less because King Yeonsangun and Gil-dong bring up interesting ideas as they are because of the radically different context. King Yeonsangun just ponders generically because he's the king and has nothing better to do. Whereas Gil-dong is in jail.
Ultimately neither discussion proves to be of much consequence. King Yeonsangun continues ruling as he always does, and Gil-dong simply breaks out of prison upon being reminded by his comrades-in-arms that being in prison is bad and they should really be leaving. Which is how the overall story arc in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" feels too. There are a large number of vaguely related setpieces, a sort of unifying theme, yet little real continuity.
Consider the ending. While Gil-dong and his crew have spent most of the runtime battling against corrupt nobles and evading detection by the authorities in various goofy ways, in the end foreign invaders look to dominate the story. Maybe. It's kind of hard to tell whether that was supposed to a new shift in story direction, or whether Gil-dong's team is somewhat restricted in sympathy when the main people they end up bullying are guards. It's easy to forget that hired goons, too, are members of the oppressed working class.
But even as spectacle goes I haven't been all that enthralled with the action sequences in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" lately. Most of the plans aren't that clever, and only work because Gil-dong is always running up against antagonists who aren't very smart. It's a bit of a shame, since the whole faux authority scam could actually be a fairly sublime commentary on how arbitrary the power of the nobles' power is in the first place.
Then again there has been so much commentary, even explicitly in the script, that I'm beginning to wonder if the production team is out of ideas. Before, the first scene of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" seemed so hopelessly distant that I was impatient. Lately, it seems so obviously close at hand that I can't really parse how short the journey has been to get to this point. It's hard to tell whether the plot's actually all that disjointed or whether I'm just being difficult to please right now.
Review by William Schwartz
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 19"
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