Dirty Carnival (A)
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (19th May 2008).
The Film

For what ever reason, the older I got, my fandom of Japanese cinema turned westward towards Korea. Rest assured, some of the best movies I have ever seen have come from the land of the rising sun, but Korea, for whatever reason, seems to be incredibly consistent when it comes to the quality of their films. Maybe Iím just not watching enough Korean films (I donít think thatís the case though), or maybe itís just something in the water. Either way, Iíve been presented with another Korean movie, and I have to say, the consistency continues on.

"A Dirty Carnival", written and directed by Ha Yu, tells the fascinating tale of Byung-du (In-sung Zo), a young gangster caught in a limbo of illegal activity. He works for gangsters, but isnít high enough in the ranks to make enough to pay rent for his family. The film follows his rise to power, his desire to leave the business, and how he goes about getting sucked back in. Where most films would be set on one track, perhaps only focusing on a man trying to get out of the business and fighting his old friends, "A Dirty Carnival" takes various twists and turns, exploring complex aspects to every story told.

Not only is the life of Byung-du examined, but others as well. Most interesting is the side story concerning Min-ho (Min Nam-koong), an aspiring film director who knew Byung from when they were children. Min-ho is researching gangsters for a script he is working on, and tracks down his old friend when he learns about his current lifestyle. The most interesting scenes in the film concern the production of Min-hoís movie. Min-ho begins to lift stories from Byungís life, events which take place in the film, and are given a cinematic twist. This offers to the audience an interesting examination of the filter filmmakers pull over reality. Also, one of the more delectable twists of the film come when Min-ho takes off-the-record stories Byung tells him, sending his crime syndicate into a tailspin.

Not only does this film sport an impressively epic story (one that easily justifies the 141 minute run time), but has some incredibly brutal action scenes to boot. The first major fight of the film has 30 or so men beating each other to death with baseball bats, all in a rather realistic fashion. While Korean movies like "City of Violence" (2006) and "Volcano High" (2001) offer ridiculous violence, it was refreshing to see murders and fights that werenít sugarcoated by ridiculous spin moves and amazing acrobatic feats. This is what violence is in real life, at least to a degree.

Itís hard for me to really pick out anything I didnít like about this movie. It was strongly directed, written, acted, shot, etc. etc. I think that anyone who is a fan of crime films, or just Korean films in general should do themselves a favor and check out "A Dirty Carnival".

Video

"A Dirty Carnival" is offered in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and I have to admit, the picture is probably the weakest point of this disc. Iím not saying that the film quality is sub-par or anything, in fact itís more than exceptional, but the film just never wowed me with its colors or composition. This film could have been enhanced greatly if more time had been spent of coordinating a consistent visual look to the film.

Audio

"A Dirty Carnival" is offered in a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Every sound comes out clear as day, and in a few specific instances, the track makes brilliant use of the surround sound transfer, having isolated sounds come out of just the right speakers. This is definitely one of those DVDs that can trick you into thinking there are Korean people hanging out behind you.
Optional subtitles are included in English.

Extras

Genius Products has released "A Dirty Carnival" with both a making of featurette and deleted scenes. They are examined further below:

First up is "Making of the Action Scenes" a featurette running for 36 minutes and 15 seconds. This thorough behind the scenes featurette interviews cast and crew concerning the elaborate fight scenes that the film has to offer. The people behind this movie come off very candidly, and you really believe that everyone first and foremost had a ton of fun making the film.

Next up are the deleted scenes, a series of raw footage cut strung together for 8 minutes and 37 seconds. The new scenes offer a bit more character interaction between Byung-du and his family, as well as how he treats other characters in the world. Also, many scenes of the film are extended slightly, showing characters in their continuation in some of the more violent scenes. Most of the footage is entertaining to look at in the context of being deleted, but can see why they were cut, as most of them would have done little to help the filmís focus.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: B Audio: A Extras: B Overall: B+

 


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