Watching More Movies: A Look At The Korean Film ‘Rough Cut’
I’ve always liked the idea of movies about the making of movies, but there aren’t any that I particularly love. “8 ½,” “The Big Picture,” “Bowfinger.” I’m always interested in the concept, but they never cease to disappointment me and are never as exciting as what I’d like to the prospect of making a film really is. Though all fictional films have led to underwhelming results, the documentary side of things has “Overnight,” one of the few documentaries I own due to its rewatchability and genuine excellence. Alas, I’ll continue to go to the fictional well to see if anything will ever equate. My latest foray into this sub-genre was with the Korean film “Rough Cut.”
Soo-ta is an action star. While filming his latest contribution to the genre, he has a tendency to get rough with his co-stars. Every choreographed kick and punch is supposed come close, but never actually connect with another actor. Soo-ta gets a little out of control with technique and as a result has landed his main villain co-star in the hospital unable (and unwilling) to come back to work. After an earlier run in with a gangster, Gang-pae, at a nightclub, who admits to having a feel for acting when he was younger, Soo-ta enlists him to star as his opposition. Gang-pae agrees, but only if their action scenes are as real as Soo-ta has made it for his past co-workers.
Gang-pae is not the type to do anything lightly. He carries his rough-and-tumble image wherever he goes and puts it into action. In their scenes, his punches land with serious ferocity on Soo-ta, threatening to put the star of the film out of action multiple times. Soo-ta has no option other than to take boxing lessons for himself so he can complete the film the way he wants to and the way the script calls for: with him being the hero.
Part of the attraction of this film was that it came from a script by Kim Ki-duk, who’s an acclaimed director of films I haven’t had a chance to see yet. However, it’s the script where I think most of the film’s issues lie. The character arcs of both Soo-ta and Gang-pae are a little strange. It didn’t seem like they arced so much as they fluctuated up and down, especially as they relate to each other. Whereas Soo-ta has a relationship with a woman who despises that it must be kept in secret and Gang-pae does some wooing of co-star Mi-na, the central relationship is how Soo-ta and Gang-pae relate to each other. Though Gang-pae seems to turn a corner at times, his relationship with Soo-ta remains violently adversarial and by the end of the film he’s exactly where he started. I enjoyed the film enough, but it didn’t rise to the levels of its country’s other output I’ve recently viewed. To top it off, I’m still awaiting a classic “movie about movies,” as this one isn’t it either.