Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tazza: The High Rollers (2006)

The second highest grossing film in South Korea from '06 (behind only The Host) was Tazza: The High Rollers, and it's easy to see why. A glossy genre piece with stylized performances, a knotty but lucid plot, and a breezy jazz score, it's pure entertainment.

It would be impossible to list all the twists of the plot, but let's just say it's about a gambling addict, Go Ni, who steals his sister's alimony payout and blows it all on a hwatu game. He then vows to win it all back, and runs away from home to learn from one of the three greatest hwatu players in all of Korea, Pyeong. Soon Go leaves Pyeong for the beautiful Madam Jeong, owner of a particulary boisterous gambling house/brothel. She's played by Kim Hye Soo in a smoldering performance that transcends the predictable femme fatale arc of her character. And so on.

It's based on a popular comic strip, which possibly explains the density of incident in it's 2 hour 20 min. running time. What's shocking is how swift it moves, as each new character is given their own idiosyncratic tic, and from scene to scene it can move from bedroom farce to violent gangster flick. And none of it seems forced. A small miracle, really.

Tazza runs through February 15 at the ImaginAsian Theatre.


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