May 5, 2011

Monopoly: Neither a Crime of the Century, Nor a Movie for Tonight

Sigh. Why isn't Lee Hang-bae's Monopoly better than it is? Why? It has sections that are pretty interesting. It also periodically suggests complicated back stories for its characters — an attractive trio that's masterminding the biggest swindle in Korean banking history. I'm certainly predisposed to like lead character Kyung Ho (Yang Dong-kun): a gay computer nerd who's all-too-willing to throw his morals out the window for John (Kim Seong-su), the emotionally manipulative, American heartthrob who eventually shows his commitment by running over said tech geek's homophobic co-worker, then backing over the jerk a second time to make sure the job is done. (Since this is a Korean movie, there's no shortage of vomit to prove our hero is sickened by the action even as he's won over by John's devotion.)

I also admit a weakness for the complications that arise once you learn that the aforementioned amoral dreamboat is actually bisexual and married to Elly (Yun Ji-min), a cigarette-puffing vixen who sashays about in form-fitting satin that accents every delectable curve. But these three promising characters never end up being that deep and the performances are a little too one-note. I ended up thinking Kyung Ho should cry less, John should emote more, and Elly should consider learning how to blow smoke rings. Hey, someone's got to lighten up. Because one thing Monopoly lacks is a sense of humor. Lee takes his central crime pretty seriously and truth be told, the outlandish embezzlement he's concocted is little more than Office Space meets The Usual Suspects. Yes, I know that's a spoiler but since Monopoly isn't so great, wouldn't you rather know this movie's pedigree now than sit through 90 minutes and feel like you'd seen it before? Which actually gets me back to my original wish. I feel like Kyung Ho especially could've been a truly original character. It's not often you get to see an effeminate, figurine-collecting office drone break out of his downtrodden status and enact revenge fantasies, even if they fill him with regret. But as played by Yang, Kyung Ho never really sheds the mincing stereotype, except at the very end when he discards his identity completely. If you're angry because I've just dropped another spoiler, I have to ask you: Why did you continue reading after the first one?

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