The Taste Of Money (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/10/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Disappointing Korean drama that fails to do anything interesting with its promising set-up and falls down thanks to a wildly uneven tone, laughably bad dialogue and a handful of atrocious performances.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Im Sang-soo (who made the similarly-themed The Housemaid, itself a remake of a 1960 Korean horror movie), The Taste of Money begins with private secretary Young-jak (Kim Kang-woo) being shown a vault full of money by his corporate-crime family boss Yoon (Baek Yoon-sik), who tells him to fill his pockets, because everybody does it. Once back at their palatial house, the full-on dysfunctionality of the family quickly becomes apparent: Yoon is having an open affair with his besotted Catholic Filippino maid Eva (Maui Taylor), so his scheming, madly jealous wife Keum-ok (Youn Yuh-jung) coolly seduces Young-jak, who in turn has his eyes on Yoon and Keum-ok's beautiful and seemingly innocent daughter Nami (Kim Hyo-jin).

Meanwhile, Yoon's devil-may-care son Chul (On Ju-wan) is involved in a deeply shady slush-fund deal with American businessman Robert Altman (Darcy Paquet) and double-crosses abound. But exactly who is playing who?

The Bad
The set-up for the film is promising, but Sang-soo fails to bring any of the various plot strands to life, though he does display an admirable commitment to the frequency of his saucy sex scenes. Similarly, the performances are something of a mixed bag - Youn Yuh-jung is deliciously evil as Keum-ok (the scene where she seduces Young-jak offers the film's one original and arresting moment, since it's shot as if she's the man, making muscular, seemingly capable Young-jak submit to her desires) and Maui Taylor is affecting as Eva, but Kim Kang-woo is disappointingly blank-faced throughout as Young-jak, while Darcy Paquet (actually a Korea-based American film critic) delivers one of the most wooden performances in recent memory as Robert Altman.

The Worse
The film's biggest problem is the uneven tone, which veers wildly from serious, allegory-heavy political drama to saucy sex comedy to gangster thriller to Shakespearean tragedy to soapy melodrama, often within the space of a single scene, though without being as much fun as that actually sounds. On top of that, the pacing is extremely slow and plodding and the on-the-nose dialogue is frequently laughably terrible, to say nothing of the constant in-your-face restating of the central theme (power corrupts, okay?).

Worth seeing?
Despite a promising set-up, The Taste of Money is something of a disappointment, thanks to a confused overall tone, a poorly written script and a handful of dodgy performances.

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Content updated: 23/07/2018 16:28

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