Doo-soo (played by Jung Doo-won) is a college graduate who made the strategic decision to work as a teamster at the Garak market in southeast Seoul. The reasoning being, that teamsters get money right now. And being in office interview purgatory is, well, not a good time. While Doo-soo does not have an especially favorable contract, he unexpectedly gains an opportunity to better his position in life through his expertise in the game of Korean chess.
...The question being, how specifically, Doo-soo intends to improve his lot in life. "Garak Market Revolution" caught me off guard at about the starting point for the second half, because the focus moves away from the market and on to a completely new group of friends Doo-soo is motivated by. Even Doo-soo's love interest ends up being, not the immediately logical woman, but someone who shows up rather late. So that story ends up being a bit of a bait-and-switch.
The second half of the movie ends up feeling rather rushed, as Doo-soo quickly falls into a completely new conflict. Which ends up solving the initial conflict, since apparently modern existential angst is easily solved just by Doo-soo finding a more constructive use for his Korean chess superpowers. That denouement ends up being somewhat unsatisfying. We're promised a battle with four of the greater Korean chess masters, who get named and everything, but I could tell just from the runtime we were barely going to have enough time for one.
But questionable editing choices notwithstanding, how does "Garak Market Revolution" hold up? It's actually not so bad. Jung Doo-won has this great wide-eyed crazy person look that gives him some really nice expressions. For all his best efforts Doo-soo always comes off as the cat that ate the canary. He's always making a fool of himself, and falls victim to obvious pranks, yet manages to shuffle through his shame and work constructively through to a better future.
The backdrop is pretty nice too. "Garak Market Revolution" was clearly filmed in and around the actual Garak market, and the Korean chess park also offers some of the best natural looks you're likely to find of local Korean culture in motion. Even a subplot about Doo-soo's sister Doo-hee (played by Park Ye-young) manages to enliven well-worn territory through its intersectionality. Why yes, the same brutal employment market that Doo-soo is avoiding takes advantage of that scarcity to abuse his sister. Why should this come as a surprise?
That kind of subtlety comes off a lot better than the actual late plot, which centers around the destruction of a homeless shelter. But see, for that kind of flaw, it's genuinely kind of hard to hate a movie where there's a character who goes by the name of Lil' Sexy Wozniak. Granted a pretty major overhaul of the script was necessary since Lil' Sexy Wozniak doesn't even show up until fifty minutes in then almost instantly becomes the most important supporting character. All the same, for the movie it is, "Garak Market Revolution" is not terrible.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Garak Market Revolution""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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