When I was in Pusan in October, I saw a great film called Secret Reunion, an outstanding sophomore effort from director Jang Hun, and I knew I had to see his debut film, Rough Cut (2008). Although "Rough Cut" is a typically slick, slapped-on afterthought of an English title (the Korean title, Yeong-hwa-neun Yeong-hwa-da, translates as "A Movie is a Movie"), it describes the film fairly well. I get the pun: "rough cut" is an industry term, and there's a lot of fighting in the film. However in the case of the film itself, it's literally rough in the cutting. Some cuts are abrupt and confusing, like visual non-sequiturs. This is a common problem with first-time directors -- they're still getting their arms around the gargantuan responsibilities of film directing. Some things are bound to fall through the cracks. However, in the case of Rough Cut, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.
Jang Soo-ta (Kang Ji-hwan) is an actor with anger management issues and one hell of an attitude. His specialty is gangster pictures and he's as tough offscreen as on. Only problem is: kicking your fellow actors' asses for real on the set -- it's just not done. Soon nobody wants to work with Soo-ta. Enter Lee Kang-pae (So Ji-sub). He's a real gangster with a yen to be an actor. He has a run-in with Soo-ta early on, and, as you've no doubt guessed by now, winds up shooting a picture with him. He too has an interest in kicking ass for real (hey, it's his job), and proposes that the two men just go for it, no holds barred, in every fight scene. What results is somewhere between Fight Club and All About Eve.
Given the premise, and the fact it's a Korean film, you can bet your bottom won there's gonna be wall-to-wall whoopass. The male leads are cool and tough, the love interest (Hong Soo-hyeon) is smokin' hot, the gangland b-story is tense, and the pace is relentless. Nevermind the occasional bad edit, Rough Cut is a gripping, brutal adrenaline rush from beginning to end. And Jang Hun is a director to watch.
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