Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Monopoly (2006)

Monopoly (Review)
Lee Hang-bae/Yang Dong-geun/2006
Where To Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...feels less like a game of Monopoly, though, and more like a puzzle."

Eccentric computer genius Kyung-ho (Yang Dong-geun) manages the network for the banks in Korea. Persuaded by the charisma of a businessman named John (Kim Seong-su), Kyung-ho spirals into a mysterious con game...

Monopoly is a little complicated. The plot begins in the present as Kyung-ho and one of his partners are interrogated. Soon, Kyung-ho is hypnotized, and the flashbacks begin. The first half of the film works off of building up the relationship between Kyung-ho and John, as well as building up John's mysterious master plan. However, not much really happens. There's just simply too much buildup for the entire first half fails to efficiently buildup the big scheme, and instead works on Kyung-ho tasting the lavish life and developing this odd relationship. The rest of the film pieces together the mystery. The second half of the film works very well as a thriller and mystery. I overall enjoyed the ending – it's very redeeming for the first half's faults.

So, really, you have half of a mediocre film and half of a great film. Like I said, the film's focus – or lack thereof – during the first half makes it feel a tad bit tedious. It grabs your attention thanks to the storytelling, but it feels uneventful. I love buildup in film, but this is a case of too much. Other than that – and this is a problem that occasionally arises throughout the entire film – the story can feel somewhat convoluted. It has a lot of twists and turns, especially during the latter half, but some fail to land due to the previously mentioned lack of focus. There are a lot of characters in this film, too, that don't have proper introductions and pop in and out of the film – some of them left me a bit baffled.

However, I was ultimately entertained. This thriller keeps you on your feet throughout its runtime. Sure, it's occasionally boring and confusing, but I never gave up on it. The overall concept, especially its grand finale, is very intriguing – it had me hooked. It feels less like a game of Monopoly, though, and more like a puzzle. And, I didn't mind. I actually liked piecing together this mystery. It's not an action film by any standard, but there is some solid suspense and tension here and there. Actually, the climax of the film felt underwhelming, especially after all that buildup. But, still, I genuinely liked it.

The acting was strong from Yang Dong-geun and Kim Seong-su. Yun Ji-min, who has mastered the catwalk, also delivers a great performance. Some of the English-speaking scenes weren't all that good, but it wasn't a strong issue for the film – it doesn't have a strong presence, after all. The film is shot competently – nothing stood out as either good or bad as far as the cinematography goes. I did like the music, though, it really fit the genre. Writer and director Lee Hang-bae had me hooked for the most part. However, the writing and direction could have used some focus and fine-tuning.

Overall, I liked Monopoly. It definitely has some flaws, but I thought it was entertaining. It managed to keep me interested from beginning to end – and I very much enjoyed the ending. If you like mystery-thrillers that keep you on your feet and keep you guessing – sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong – then this film might be worth your time.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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