The Swindlers Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Seong-woo
  • Director: Jang Chang-Won
  • Disc Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go Usa
  • Release Date: July 30, 2019
  • Run Time: 117 minutes

        I almost feel bad for modern South Korean filmmakers. This generation is following one of the most innovative and prolific in the nation’s entire cinematic history, and many of the latest endeavors simply pale in comparison. The Swindlers is a perfect example of how South Korean cinema has learned from the successes of Hollywood, while also retaining very distinct national themes (revenge narratives are common across multiple genres). There is no difference between the way that Chang-Won Jang adopts the Ocean’s 11/Now You See Me/The Italian Job formula for Korean audiences and how Chan-Wook Park did the same with 90s thrillers (specifically Fincher films, The Game and Se7en) for his iconic ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ (Oldboy being the most influential in the West), other than the familiarity with this structure and the quality of the films imitated. The reason I feel bad for Jang is the same that I felt bad for every Tarantino-hack in the late 90s, but it isn’t enough to make The Swindlers a more memorable film.

        Even forgettable cinema can be enjoyable as you watch it, kind of like a fast-food meal for your senses. Unfortunately, The Swindlers is often too convoluted (and confusing as a result) for the base enjoyment necessary. It is a film that takes an exorbitant amount of mental energy for minimal pleasure or intellectual reward. The work is all to follow what turns out to be a fairly generic heist film, following all of the twists and turns in the narrative structure so predictably that they have no real impact.

        Although, perhaps I am being a bit harsh in my description, because despite the feelings of disappointment at the end result, I was actively engaged for the full run-time and the movie begins with an effectively dramatic (albeit confusing) prologue sequence. After a large-scale investment scam leaves a trail of victims and tragedy, a con man named Du-chil Jang (Sung-tae Heo) escapes South Korea with a fortune, but not before tying up all loose ends that could reveal his plans. This includes the man who made his passport (Jin-young Jung), whose death is met by a vow of vengeance from his, son Ji-sung (Hyun Bin).

        Years later Ji-sung is caught in an attempt to swindle a team of swindlers working for a government official named Hui-su Park (Ji-tae Yu). Convinced to team up with them, this group of con men set out to capture the world’s most notorious con man, using his methods to achieve their goal. This is almost like a heist film mixed with an espionage movie, but that makes it sound a lot more fun than it actually is. While there are the usual scenes of deception, double-crosses, and reveals, more time is spent trying to keep up with whose side everyone is on than actually enjoying the experience.  

        Everything about the release of the film on Blu-ray in the U.S. feels like a quick cash-grab, from the imitative cover art to the shoddy English subtitles (mostly due to simple grammar/spelling errors). Not only is there no English dubbing option (which is never recommended anyway), there aren’t even Chinese subtitles available, not to mention any real special features.

Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance:  3/10
Special Features: 0/10

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