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A Dirty Carnival
A Dirty Carnival
Actors: Gweon Tae-weon, Jo In-Seong, Cheon Ho-jin, Park Hyo-jun, Jin Gu
Director: Ha Yu
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
UR     2008     2hr 21min

The mean streets of Seoul is a tough place to make a living. So when a young career gangster gets a chance to move up the ladder in his organization, he decides to take the shot. After disposing of a corrupt lawyer who thr...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gweon Tae-weon, Jo In-Seong, Cheon Ho-jin, Park Hyo-jun, Jin Gu
Director: Ha Yu
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Crime, Indie & Art House
Studio: Genius Products (TVN)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/20/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 21min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Korean
Subtitles: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 4/13/2011...
'A Dirty Carnival' is a firt-rate Korean crime thriller. Director/writer Yu Ha departs from his more absurdist/parody ouevre, as in the black humor of 'Once upon a Time in High school' and instead created a gritty, realistic, emotionally-driven gangster fil that's a mixture of post-modern noir with old school Warner Brothers. All in all, it's very entertaining and original.

Byung-Doo Kim (Jo-In Seong) is a 29-year-old, #3 gangster who lives a burdened parallel existance as a good son who takes care of his delicate, sickly, elderly mother, and has a bit more of a clichéd relationship with his little brother who also wants to become a gangster=. All the while, he also has to take care of his gang's #2, the stupid sadistic Sang Chul (Yoon Jae Moon). Byung-Doo does a hit for the gang's main Boss, Hwang (Jeon Ho-Jin) who is being pestered by a corrupt prosecutor. Just when it looks like he can do no wrong, One day, Byung-Doo cromeets an old childhood friend who just happens to be an aspiring movie director named Min-Ho (Nam Gung-Min). Min-Ho somehow persuades Byung-Doowants to give him realistic 'background information' on real-life gangsters. Now things start to spin out of control for this up-and-coming thug.

One thing leads to another as an emotionally innocent Byung-Doo is way out of his league, caught in a self-manufactured web of deception and betrayal. The rise and fall of Byung-Doo is, in and of itself, predictable. His dumb unquestioning love and respect for his childhood girlfriend Hyun-Ju (Lee Bo-young) and his family ultimately collide with his other sadistic, ruthless self bound to do him and everybody else in his vortex in.

There is a lot of brilliant choreographed violence throughout. As usual with Yu Ha, knives, baseball bats and steel pipes are the weapon of choice. The fights are very well done and these gangsters are rendered in a realistic cruel way. The movie-within-a-movie subplot works very well to squelch the syrupy sentimentality Byung-Doo feels toward old friends and family. He is actually, to all intents and purposes, a victim of the bizarre code cultivated by watching too many gangster movies.

At 141 minutes, the film is long but never boring. Byung-Doo's gang have much integrity and live by on their own set of rules. Thus, when Byung-Doo temporarily becomes an absentee boss too much involved in "other business" their integrity as a group is threatened. When they finally turn on Byung-Doo it seems just and inevitable. This is definitely a thinking person's kind of gangster flick and I recommend it highly.

Movie Reviews

You Reap what you Sow....
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 05/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

There has been an overflow of South Korean crime thrillers and even Hong Kong crime dramas have lost a lot of its gritty charisma. A DIRTY CARNIVAL is a crime thriller that has achieved something that other Korean thrillers have failed to do. Director/writer Yu Ha (Once upon a Time in High school) has delivered a crime thriller that is gritty, realistic, emotionally-driven with well-rounded characters that absolutely rivals the best crime dramas that seemed mixed in the usual Hong Kong grittiness with a bit of "Good Fellas" mixed in.

Byung-Doo Kim (Jo-In Seong) is a 29 year old petty gangster who is burdened with the responsibility of caring for an ailing mother, a brother who wants to become a gangster and his family is about to lose their home. He realizes that he cannot continue on like this and he has to also take care of his gang under gang Lieutenant Sang Chul (Yoon Jae Moon). Byung-Doo seizes the moment when the Gang's main Boss; Hwang (Jeon Ho-Jin) who is pestered by a corrupt prosecutor and volunteers to take care of the problem by performing a "whack" job on the corrupt official. Byung-Doo is on the quick rise to power among the ranks, and his "gangster" career seems very secure. One day, he crosses paths with a childhood friend who is also an aspiring movie director named Min-Ho (Nam Gung-Min). Min-Ho wants to get background information on real-life gangsters to create his new film. Byung-Doo finds himself in a web of murder and betrayal in a world where trust and mercy doesn't exist.

The film is very interesting to watch; and unlike most Hollywood mob dramas which portray gangsters as cool, conniving characters, the director instead delivers a film that humanizes the Gang member persona. Byung-Doo is a kindhearted individual entangled in a web of deception and betrayal with no way out but to try to survive. The old adage `make it big or die in the attempt' is actually the film's main theme including family, love and loyalty. The film actually has three elements that make the film very powerful; the rise and fall of Byung-Doo, his love for childhood friend Hyun-Ju (Lee Bo-young) and the love for his family, and the movie within the movie subplot perpetrated by Min-Ho. What would happen if all these pieces of his world collide? Byung-Doo is a decent man in some ways but utterly ruthless in some. He is a fool that believes in his own code that will lead him on the path to ruin.

Now this film is not a weak drama even though there is a lot of emotions underlying in the interactions and reactions. The film does have a lot of violence going for it, there are a lot of brutal fights which is beautifully shot with its realism. As with Yu Ha's previous film; knives, baseball bats and steel pipes are the weapon of choice. The fights are very well done and full of visceral impact. The action sequences are bloody and brutal; and most important of all, very realistically cruel. Yu Ha has created a film which is very dark and only gets darker as the film progresses. There is a lot of adrenaline as the film has a lot of brutality displayed throughout. The movie within a movie subplot is also very effective. This added element actually gives the film a lot of credibility which brings us to its main strength; three dimensional characters.

The characters in the film are well-developed and backed up with a strong screenplay. True, some may argue that at 141 minutes, the film may run overly long but each second is put to good use. The film is never boring and is full of emotional content. True, the film's premise may not be something we haven't seen before but the execution is nearly flawless. Each character is introduced carefully with their own backgrounds and specifically Byung-Doo's love interest Hyun-Ju which I feared was a simple plot device but she turned out to be very viable. So, the director actually spends a lot of time for the audience to get to know our characters. Head Boss Hwang (Jeon Ho-jin) may emulate somewhat of a laid back boss but don't be fooled by his appearance, he is quite ruthless as they come. Byung-Doo's gang lives on their own set of rules such as never to look sloppy and always look well-groomed, their gang integrity is all important. They are a family because they eat from the same table, well-mannered and disciplined in their own way. Even the gang itself is full of depth which I can definitely applaud the director for taking this step.

"A Dirty Carnival" is a crime thriller that warrants a look because of its straight-forward, no nonsense, none glorification of crime elements. The film effectively portrays crime as something to be avoided, although it doesn't point an accusing finger as to why Byung-Doo would stoop to such levels. The film is very solid in its execution that the viewer can forgive its somewhat slow-paced scenes and overlong running time. Director Yu has created a world that is somber but at the same time ruthless and full of violent atmosphere. Kudos to the filmmakers for not forgetting even for one second just how it really is to be a gangster. Intense and full of emotional content, this film will keep you glued to your seat.

Full of grittiness and realism, I stand impressed of Yu Ha's handiwork.


Up there with City of God....
Warren Yu | California Bay Area | 08/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm suprised this movie hasn't been discovered and established a fan base as wide as Fernando Meirelles's City of God. I'd say it's also a notch or two below Scarface, there's a little bit of everything in this movie which makes it not JUST a gangster flick. There's bit of comedy, romance, action, and like the Sopranos, there a family element to it, and this is a very emotional movie as well...every element is pulled off very well.

The fight scenes rock, especially the fight scene where 30 dudes from rival gangs are wacking each other with baseball bats, and slicing each other with knives and drop kicking each other in the head, all in the rain on a dirt road... no guns. This one tops any other gang fight scene out there. Overall, this movie nothing short of amazing."