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Old `Swindle' Still Does the Trick

2004/04/15 | Permalink | Source

By Joon Soh
Staff Reporter
With cutting dialogue, over-the-top violence and quirky soundtracks, director Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" transformed how movies presented the world of crime. And for years afterwards, every other film released in the United States and Europe seemed to be chasing after that "Tarantino chic", trying to bring wit and retro-cool to smooth-talking thugs and assassins. Some worked, but most didn't.

It's a little late in the game, but a new local film has thrown its hat into the ring of tales about smooth criminals. "Pomchoe-ui Chaegusong (The Big Swindle)", by first-time director Choi Dong-hun, definitely takes more than a few cues from other heists-gone-wrong flicks, but he and his cast bring enough energy to the story to still make it an enjoyable ride.

Much like "Reservoir Dogs" and Bryan Singer's "The Usual Suspects", the film starts at the tail end of the job, where we find the gang scattered and on the run after their foolproof bank scam goes awry. Chang-hyok (Park Shin-yang), one of the leaders of the scam, meets his end in an explosion after a long car chase, while Olmae (Lee Moon-shik) lands in a hospital under the watch of the police. The other three members of the gang are nowhere to be found.

Little by little, the story behind The Big Swindle and the whereabouts of the other swindlers come to light. The film shows how the sly and somewhat crass Chong-hyok convinces the veteran con artist Mr. Kim (Baek Yoon-sik) to join his attempt to pose as bank officials and infiltrate the headquarters of the Bank of Korea. Mr. Kim, in turn, recruits his old cohorts from bygone days: the affable but daft Olmae; the slightly psychotic Chaebi (Park Won-sang); and Huibalyu (Kim Sang-ho), a counterfeit expert.

Despite seeming derivative, "Swindle" does a satisfying job balancing all the flashbacks, plot twists and backstabbing that the story goes through. A lot of the credit goes to the excellent cast, which includes Yum Jung-ah from "Changhwa, Hongryon (A Tale of Two Sisters)" as a femme fatale who plays her own scam on the boys. Especially impressive is Park, who seemed seriously lost in last year's horror thriller "Sainyong Siktak (The Uninvited)" but brings an engaging complexity to the role of Chong-hyok.

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