Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Rough Play (2013)

Rough Play (Review)
Shin Yeon-shick/Lee Joon/2013
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

" just doesn't feel like it has much to offer."

Oh Young (Lee Joon), a nameless actor, begins to rise after being discovered for his gutsy performances, but he soon finds fame comes with a price...

Rough Play is a character-study. I say that before I get deeper into the plot because it really doesn't have much; it doesn't have this huge dilemma or antagonist, it only has a character arc. The film follows Oh Young, a young actor hoping to make it big. He often breaks away from the script as he becomes his character. His style catches the eye of a manager looking for a comeback. In turn, Oh Young begins to rise. He becomes an overnight sensation, mingling with other actors and occasionally dabbling in the darker side of fame. Of course, as is common in film, with every rise, there must be a tumble. That's really all I can say about the plot. It's not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression. The ending was interesting, but it doesn't leave an impact.

I liked Rough Play. Honestly, considering the title, the director, and the writer (Kim Ki-duk), I was expecting something more along the lines of Rough Cut, which functions as a thriller with multiple layers. Unfortunately, this film doesn't do as much as its spiritual predecessor. Instead, Rough Play gives us a decent character study. We see this nameless actor rise, fall for the poison fruit, cut off his friends due to arrogance, and the like. There are some very suspenseful scenes, like a confrontation with a gangster/extortionist (I'm pretty sure he was a gangster), then there are some fairly standard scenes. If there was more of a conflict, I feel like this film would have been a hit. As it is, it just doesn't feel like it has much to offer. It's not bad and it's not great, it sits somewhere towards the middle.

Lee Joon does well as the lead, shifting from several moods in the blink of an eye. He can be melodramatic, but it's not too bad. The rest of the supporting cast was also good. The film was shot well and the music, whenever it played, was also good. On the technical side, this is your basic small budget film – and it works well with what it has. The film is directed by Shin Yeon-shick and written by Kim Ki-duk. Shin Yeon-shick often opts for style over substance, blending several scenes together for a rough transition. It looks good, but it can be sloppy for the storytelling. If you've read my reviews before, you know I'm a big fan of Kim Ki-duk. His writing here, however, feels limited. The character is interesting, but he doesn't have the layers or risks to hold the film up.

Overall, Rough Play is a decent film. It's an interesting concept, it has its fair share of suspenseful scenes, and it's ultimately more than watchable. However, the film is also lacking in narrative and character. Conceptually, the film is strong and engaging, but the story never fully takes advantage of said concept. Instead, you have an interesting character meandering from event-to-event with little consequence. Perhaps it was the expectations set by Rough Cut, which I loved, but this film just didn't leave an impact.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, some implied sex and sexual assaults.

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