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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Beasts Clawing at Straws

Director: Kim Yong-Hoon

Screenplay: Kim Yong-Hoon

Year: 2020

A Louis Vuitton bag captures almost the entirety of the opening shot as if it was any other character until we slowly see that it is being transported and stored inside a locker. This is not the last time we will see the bag and its pseudo-character status continues to be reinforced throughout the movie, as the plot revolves around it. A sauna employee, a customs official, a ripped off woman, and a spa owner, all of who will put their hands on the bag but, what are they willing to do to get the money it holds?

“Beasts Clawing at Straws” is the impressive debut of director Kim Yong-Hoon, where he chooses greed as the focal point of his plot. During the movie’s development, there are contrasting actions of what the characters are willing to do for money, all of them in different economic situations. Greed in the different socio-economic circles is undoubtedly the topic and the social commentary that the novice director masterfully exposes.

The excellent script develops several parallel stories that seem to hold no relationship whatsoever with one another, but as information is being revealed, they start coming closer and closer together. Even when it is hard to determine where the story is moving, the storytelling capabilities of Kim Yong-Hoon makes it impossible for you to move your eyes away from the screen. Every scene makes everything more confusing but more interesting at the same time until it reaches a stage where it takes a few turns and puts everything in perspective, and makes perfect sense.

Because of the nature of the story, plenty of characters are introduced to the plot. However, they are all so well developed that we get to know them well enough to understand their actions, although some are unexpected. The outstanding work of the main cast, composed of Jung Woo-Sung (“The Good The Bad and the Weird”), Bae, Sung-Woo (“The King”), and Jeon Do-Yeon (“The Shameless”), is vital in making this possible. Similarly, the technical work in the cinematography and sound elevates everything that the plot presents. 

The movie is not short of direct and indirect metaphors. The names of some of the characters and the imagery, like a shark tattoo to expose the alpha predator status, are some of the clearers, but not the only ones presented. The writer and director manage to include topics such as female and immigrant abuse in society without overwhelming the plot or losing focus of what its main message is. 

“Beasts Clawing at Straws” is the impressive debut of the Korean director Kim Yong-Hoon, who has everything in favor for catapulting his career towards success. The movie is an excellent storytelling and character development exercise, with a plot as convoluted as it is interesting. It is not the most original movie and can feel slow for those looking for more action and gore, but nonetheless, it is an excellent crime thriller poised to achieve great things.

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