Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: The Taste of Money (2012)

The Taste of Money (Review) 
Im Sang-soo/Kim Kang-woo/2012 
Where to Watch: 
Amazon Prime 

"...a conglomerate of half-baked and ineffective ideas."

Humble and honest Joo Young-jak (Kim Kang-woo) is the private secretary for one of Korea's wealthiest families. As the family is shaken by several scandals, Young-jak finds himself battling with the morality of the issues at hand... 

The Taste of Money follows Young-jak as he works for this wealthy family. Although the company president is Chairman Yoon, the real power is held by Baek Geum-ok, the mother of the family. So, Young-jak finds himself serving Yoon, who is having an affair with a maid, Baek Geum-ok, who wants to brutally punish Yoon, Chul, the son who is at the center of a public scandal, and Nami, the daughter who is the most genuine of the bunch. The story wanders between all of these issues until it finally lands at its mediocre ending.  

The Taste of Money is a film with a lot of ideas. The idea of Young-jak working for a corrupt family. The idea of Young-jak having an affair with Geum-ok but also having feelings for Nami. The idea of Young-jak being corrupted by money. The idea of a power struggle within the home. The idea of an international conspiracy. But that's really all it is: a conglomerate of half-baked and ineffective ideas. Ironically, never does the film capitalize on the plethora of scandalous and interesting ideas it presents. Instead, we get a film that wanders and wanders looking for directions – and if that's not bad enough, nothing really happens for most of the film, it just drags. The ending also suffers from an odd occurrence; suddenly, it seems, the director felt like becoming visually “symbolic” – but the attempts is so out of nowhere, you really are left wondering.  

Fortunately, the acting is great. Kim Kang-woo is very charismatic and perfect for the role. Yoon Yeo-jeong also shines as Baek Geum-ok. The use of English as a spoken language felt odd, but not because of accents or anything like that; why did the characters speak to each other in both languages? One would ask a question in Korean, then the other would answer in English. The cinematography and set design are exquisite – definitely a beautiful film to watch. The music didn't have a strong presence. The English subtitles were nearly perfect. Writer and director Im Sang-soo lacks a strong, consistent vision; this film is all over the place and offers very little entertainment or contemplative value. 

Overall, I didn't like The Taste of Money. The story lacks direction and consistency. Most of its ideas are half-baked. Its uneventful and poorly paced. Sure, the acting and cinematography are superb, but that can't really fully redeem a film. I'd recommend for fans of The Housemaid. On that note, this is also supposed to be a “spiritual sequel” to The Housemaid, but even that concept comes off as half-baked – it has way too many references to be spiritual, but not accurate enough to be an actual sequel. 

Score: 3/10 
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, excessive sex and nudity.

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