Rough Cut -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: Kim Ki-duk lite is perfect for those who don't want the real thing.

Pusan International Film Festival
Asian Film Market
More Pusan festival reviews

From the moment "Rough Cut" begins, it's clear that Korean movie bad-boy Kim Ki-duk's fingerprints are all over it. Based on a screenplay by Kim, the story turns on many of his favorite themes and issues. Unlike Kim, first-time director Jang Hun has a more populist eye and has crafted a mainstream -- meaning linear -- drama that's infinitely more accessible than most of Kim's films.

"Rough Cut" is the kind of violent, urban quasi-actioner that is so popular in Korea and the rest of Asia, and that the Korean industry adopted from Hong Kong just about a decade ago. It's going to be a moderate hit domestically and likely will see limited release in other parts of Asia. It's also polished enough to merit niche release overseas if it doesn't make the festival cut.

Gang-pae (So Ji-sub, who broods or mumbles his way through the film) is a real gangster who crosses paths with self-involved actor Soo-ta (a slightly hyper Kang Ji-hwan) in a nightclub. When Soo-ta's on-set behavior gets him in trouble professionally and publicly, he goes to (former) wannabe actor Gang-pae and offers him a role because no one else is willing to co-star with him. The gangster's condition is that there be no stunt fighting, which sets the stage for the mother of all movie shoots.

"Rough Cut" is based on one of the oldest stories in the book: Two people from seemingly opposite worlds making an unlikely connection and finding out they're really more alike than not, but for the wrong reasons. Gang-pae isn't the thug he appears to be on the surface; he lives a quiet life on his own and is relatively generous with his time and money. Soo-ta, however, is an obnoxious brat that wants everything his way, and is behaves like a thug to get it.

The film also plays with standard Kim themes of where the line between fantasy and reality lays, imposed identity and the twisted desire for what is not one's own. And as usual, women are manipulative accessories to be traded and violence comes in sudden barrages, with the exception of the excellent final battle.

Cast: So Ji-sub, Kang Ji-hwan, Hong Soo-hyun, Ko Chang-seok.
Director: Jang Hun.
Screenwriters: Kim Ki-duk, Jang Hun, Ok Jin-gon, Oh Sei-yeon.
Producers: Kim Ki-duk, David Cho.
Executive producers: Cho Eun-un, Lee Nam-ki, Shin Kang-young, So Ji-sub, Kim Ki-duk, Jang Ji-hwan.
Director of photography: Kim Gi-tae.
Production designer: Lee Hyun-chu.
Costume designer: Ma Youn-hee.
Music: Roh Hyoung-woo.
Editor: Wong Su-ahn.
Sales agent: Showbox
No rating, 113 minutes.
production: Zambo Entertainment, Lotus Smile, Sponge, Kim Ki Duk