January 11, 2015

Rough Cut: Fighting Realism

Today. Here in my apartment. In Brooklyn. The year 2015. I wonder... Is the general consensus that the only life worth living is the one that's broadcast to the world? Are we all secretly aspiring to Kardashian levels of fame? Is it only through the media -- be it the web or TV -- that we prove ourselves as successful individuals — whatever "success" means — and should we write off the rest of the populace as "extras" or raw material to be converted into soylent green?

Directed by Jang Hun from a stinging screenplay by that great gadfly Kim Ki-duk, Rough Cut prompts these questions and more as it looks at the madness that follows when an action star (Kang Ji-hwan) with entitlement issues enlists a fan who's also a mobster (So Ji-seob) to be his costar because no one else will. As quickly as you can sign a contract in blood, the line between reality and fantasy is destroyed: The gangster has agreed with one stipulation; all fight scenes must be for real. Isn't acting "being," after all? Radiating jock cockiness and pretty boy conceit, So is good at both "real fake" (see how he treats his girlfriend) and "fake real" (watch the scene where he gets repeatedly slapped...if you can). Clearly, his mastery of dissembling has made him a superstar and a total louse. Now that attitude is going to earn him some bruises.

Kang, for his part, just feels real. And because of that, more sympathetic. Underplaying the hell out of everything, Kang's conflicted crook seduces quietly. So what if he's amoral, violent, desperate, lost. At least he's facing life head on without self-deception. Or is he? After all, Kang's gangster can't heed the advice he's doled out to Jo's prima donna. He too is playing to the camera and looking for validation from the big screen.

Is any actor really real when being real is just an act? And, in the world of Rough Cut, are you looking for honesty or just another sensational fight scene? (The slugfest in the mud near the end is FANTASTIC!) For that matter, why do the fight scenes, despite being staged, feel somehow more intensely true? Do acts of brutality register more viscerally because they're actions, not words? Is crime more honest than art? Is everything ultimately a sham?

There's a great line by the movie-within-a-movie's ingenue (Song Soo-hyun) who tells her new leading man something to the effect of "I thought I was good at understanding all types of people when I was young. But I've lost confidence as I've gotten older." In a society in which everyone is playing a public version of themselves, the ability to actually know anyone becomes seriously impaired. Egads, has our society degenerated into a pack of self-deluding liars? Could be.

No comments:

Post a Comment