Jang Jin, arguably one of the most interesting directors in modern Korean cinema, returns with the sharp comedy “The Quiz Show Scandal”. Jang has previously been known for his well written scripts and skilful mixing of genres, as seen with “Guns & Talks” and “Murder Take One”, though his latest effort is more in keeping with his recent “Good Morning President”, a satirical ensemble piece which mixes laughs with social commentary. The film boasts a mightily impressive line up of well known Korean stars, including top comedian Kim Su Ro (“Big Bang”), Han Jae Suk (from the television series “Four Sisters”), Ryu Seung Ryong (“Blades of Blood”), Ryu Deok Hwan (“Our Town”), Lim Won Hee (“A Barefoot Dream”), Jung Jae Young (“Moss”), Shim Eun Kyung (“Possessed”) and Jang Jin regular Shin Ha Kyun.
The film kicks off late one night in Seoul, with four cars getting into an accident and somehow all managing to hit the same young woman. Back at the police station, mass squabbling ensues as the various drivers and their passengers try to work out exactly who is to blame for her death. Whilst trying to figure out the mysterious woman’s identity, the police come across a flash drive in her handbag, which once unencrypted reveals what appears to be the answer to the final, 10 million dollar question on the country’s most popular television quiz show. Of course, this still leaves another 29 questions to get through, so the motley crew all rush off to try and cram as much trivia into their heads as possible before putting themselves forward for the program.
“The Quiz Show Scandal” is a film very much in Jang Jin’s style, being a genre blending piece that starts off in typically eclectic fashion, introducing a disparate set of characters that include, but are not limited to, a gambling addict, a genius college student, the wife of a woman in a coma, four members of a depression support group, and two gangsters with a man tied up in the boot of their car. This certainly gives the film the feel of an old fashioned caper, as it flits between the cast as they go about their shenanigans, usually accompanied by light hearted and wacky music. As usual with his films, the main strength here is arguably the excellent script, which is witty and intelligent throughout, managing to be amusing and idiosyncratic without ever patronising the audience in getting its many laughs. The humour is skilfully interwoven with what turns out to be a surprisingly complex and involved plot, with a number of twists along the way revolving around the identity of the woman in the accident and the reasons behind her death.
The film also works pretty well as a social satire, covering a variety of themes including corruption, nationalism, and modern Korean society and morality. This is handled in subtle fashion, enough so that it never intrudes or dominates the film, or gets in the way of its more fun aspects. The film is certainly very well constructed in this respect, which again pays tribute to Jang’s immaculate scripting and clever sense of pacing. Although the film does meander, taking almost an hour to get to the flash drive, and confining the quiz show action to the final thirty minutes or so, it’s engaging throughout and does keep the viewer guessing as to which, if any, of the characters will walk away with the prize. This having been said, the film does have a few flaws, most notably the way in which some of the characters who seem important early on get lost in the mix, and the fact that at two hours it could perhaps have done with some trimming
However, these are minor criticisms, and “The Quiz Show Scandal” sees Jang Jin on top form both as a script writer and director and making great use of his likeable cast. There are few other Korean directors who consistently show the same level of craftsmanship and storytelling, and his latest outing is very much up to his high standards, far superior to most other recent comedies from the country.
Jang Jin (director) / Jang Jin (screenplay)
CAST: Kim Soo-ro