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Rough Play - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Bae-woo-neun bae-woo-da

South Korea 2013

Drama, Crime

Shin Yeon-shik

Lee Joon
Seo Beom-seok
Min Ji-woo
Ma Dong-seok
Yang Dong-geun
Oh Kwang-rok

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Rough Play

Story: Oh Young (Lee Joon) is a stage actor and performs with all his heart. He even takes it to the limit and harms his colleagues on stage while acting. During a stage play manager Kim Jang-ho (Seo Beom-seok) sits in the audience and he wants to get Oh Young into film business. Thus, the actor gets a small supporting role in a movie next to superstar Kang Bin (Yang Dong-geun), and he even manages to outshine him. Oh Young is a new star rising, but he still hasn't achieved his big breakthrough. His success goes to his head, though, and the darker sides of his character come to the foreground more and more frequently. At the same time he has to learn that the film business is full of gangsters and falsehood. His affair with actress Hong Ji-min (Min Ji-woo), who attempts a comeback after a scandal she was involved in, leads to some serious problems, too. Being discontent with his manager Oh fires him and instead makes his friend his new manager. But after a while his friend doesn't even recognize Oh Young anymore. The actor becomes more and more alienated by himself and is about to go down in a vortex of madness.

Review: The world of movies behind the camera doesn't differ that much from the world of gangsters. That's the impression you inevitably will get after this pretty grim look at the film industry. Accordingly, "Rough Play" thematically picks up where "Rough Cut" broke off, even though storywise it stands completely on its own. The screenplay has once again been written by Kim Ki-duk, Korea's enfant terrible, who also doesn't refrain from continuously making references to his latest movie "Moebius". "Rough Play" is an interesting, but unfocused look at the life behind the camera. With Kim Ki-duk behind the camera the movie easily could have become a piece of film that is hard to digest, but director Shin Yeon-shik makes sure that next to its pecularities the movie also feels like a commercial flick.

Rough Play - Film Screenshot 11

Among other works Shin has already gained some directing experience with "Fair Love". The tone he gives the movie is surprisingly dark, but at the same time it doesn't weigh too much on you. That is because of the subtle humor, which constantly can be found in Kim Ki-duk's movies. You simply can't take certain scenes for serious. But all in all "Rough Play" is a drama that goes very deep at times. Oh Young defines his whole existence through his acting and he gives his everything when playing a role. Sadly, this also means that he doesn't just sacrifice his own health for this goal but also that of his co-actors. He is an artist through and through. Here the heart which Kim Ki-duk pours into his movies, whether you like his works or not, shines through.

Rough Play - Film Screenshot 12

Strangely enough you get the impression that the character Oh Young might in fact exist, but that he always is uneasy and only feels well in the roles he plays. Probably a psychological symptom that many actors show in real life, too. We accompany Oh Young during his rise and fall in the movie industry. The big problem here is that the numerous scenes are linked together in a very unmotivated manner. As if the actors would remain on stage while only the stage design changes. Every now and then a few subplots and new faces are added, for example Ma Dong-seok ("Midnight FM"), who always shines in his supporting roles. But even when it comes to him you start to wonder where his role is to be located in the overall picture. And what exactly is the overall picture here?

"Rough Play" may overdo it at times. The movie industry seems to be completely congruent with the world of gangsters and consequently you believe to watch a gangster drama most of the time. This mirrors Kim Ki-duk's extremely pessimistic view of the world, but you still can't take this for serious all the time. Intimidation and whoredom seem to be an everyday affair. That much is believable. But producers who, late at night, along with their bodyguards pull actors out of their car in the middle of nowhere in order to beat them up... This seems to be a tad too much. At least this gives the movie a gritty and fitting atmosphere. However, in its core "Rough Play" is a drama and there is never a reason to doubt that, because the inner emptiness of Oh Young is always conveyed convincingly. Up to this point Lee Joon acted only in drama series, but he is the kind of extraordinary actor that Kim Ki-duk would have hired for his works, too.

Rough Play - Film Screenshot 13

Next to a strong lead perfomance there are also numerous cameo appearances, even though some of them are really short. Thus, Yang Dong-geun ("Address Unknown") also appears in one of the movie's chapters. Yes, strictly speaking "Rough Play" consists of several chapters in which drama, thriller and romance (?) are intermingled. The mix itself works out well, but the chapterlike structure turns the movie into a strange series of yet intense scenes. Besides the bed scenes, which are notably very frequently to be found, the movie also stands out with some interesting editing which often mirrors the protagonists' madness. Yet, "Roough Play" remains comparibly easy to digest and is thus accessable for a wide audience, too. However, it's the movie's pecularities that make it worthwhile for some, but not for others. Considering the courage to shed some light on the movie industry in such a peculiar and grim way the movie deserves an extra point in the final rating.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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