Hae-wook (played by Kim Jin-woo) is a government employee who stumbles upon an interesting financial venture. Apparently, for the small price of putting up all your real property as collateral, an investment will return a healthy amount of money into your bank account on a regular basis. Hae-wook tells his family about the project and...well, it doesn't go well. As the saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
"Biting Fly" is at its most powerful when it's forcing us to look at the very real, human element of scam victims, and note how these financial scams destroy lives. Jung In-gi gives a supremely powerful performance as Hae-wook's father, Man-sik, who just sells produce for a living and doesn't really know anything about finances. So he trusts that people who wear suits and have resumes know what they're talking about and that the government wouldn't allow them to make bald-faced lies so blatantly.
Ha. It's funny because this is the horrifying world we live in- one where cops can reliably be expected to haul off a normal person to jail for a misdemeanor offense, but spend more time rationalizing their failure to prosecute white collar criminals than they do actually investigating them. One touch I rather liked was when Hae-wook and his compatriots have to make out wanted flyers and distribute them in public trying to find the scammers themselves. Kill one person, and the police will put out bulletins on the local news. Drive a hundred to suicide? That's just worth a shrug of the shoulders.
It's this human element that really inspires the anger. "Biting Fly" would make a great double feature with "One Line", a movie which deals with similar scams from the opposite end of the table. "One Line" betrays its moral failings by making its leads out to be competent. As we see in "Biting Fly", the villains like to think they're competent. But in fact, they're simply thieves and liars who have to hide in the mountains like homeless bandits, because money matters more to them than basic human decency.
Although that does lead me to the chief weakness of "Biting Fly". Hae-wook isn't much of a main character. His friends and family were the ones really wrecked by his bad recommendation. Hae-wook is useful as a vehicle for exploring why the situation isn't getting fixed, but his attempts at heroism don't mean anything because the damage has already been done. I'm especially not sure what to make of the pointless trip to Vietnam at the end.
But while it lasts, the central portion of the emotional story is fantastic. Director Ahn Cheol-ho really manages to channel the anger necessary to make us appreciate that yes, these crimes are awful and not given anywhere near the attention they deserve in the national media. The closing subtitle, a reminder of those who have still escaped justice, only serves as a reminder that we must always be vigilant, cautious, and should that fail demanding of those who should be protecting us.
Review by William Schwartz
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 Film Review] "Biting Fly""
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