The Big Swindle
"The Big Swindle" is an entertaining crime/action/comedy film – at least more than 2 million Koreans thinks so, which makes it the 5th most watched film this year in Korea (until the beginning of July).

Choi Chang-hyok (Park Sin-yang) is driving in his car, when he suddenly finds himself followed by the police. In a nice car chase he tries to get away, but as his car emerges from a tunnel it goes over the side, down a cliff and he is killed in the burning wreck.

The reason he tried to get away, is that he had just left the Bank of Korea, where he was part of a scam, that got him and his four accomplices the neat sum of 5 billion won. He died, one of his accomplices was caught, and the other three disappeared – and so did all the money.

Olmae (Lee Moon-sik) was the one caught by the police, and they try to get him to talk and reveal the scam and his accomplices. In flashbacks we see how the plan was hatched, and get to know the criminals.

The police tries to find out more about the killed Choi Chang-hyok, and find his brother, who is the owner of a used book store. He has been at odds with his deceased brother, but now gets a big life insurance.

This interests Seo In-keong (Jung-ah Yum – the stepmother in “A Tale of Two Sisters”) very much. She has been living with Mr. Kim (Baek Yoon-sik), who is a veteran con-artist and the money-man in the scam. Seo In-keong got to know Choi Chang-hyok – and now wants to get to know his brother.

And so the plot and plot-twists takes form, and you just have to sit back and enjoy.

This is director (and writer) Choi Dong-Hun’s first film, and it is quite entertaining – but not without some serious flaws. First of all it tries to be too many different things at once, which is not uncommon with a first time Director.

The best part of the story is the how and why of the scam itself. The scam is nice, and the plot-twists keep you guessing. The acting of Park Sin-yang and Jung-ah Yum carries the day and had the Director kept to this part of the story, "The Big Swindle" could have been a great film.

Unfortunately he had to add the comedy part. The Koreans seem to like very broad, physical and slapstick-like humor. Well. In a comedy film it can work very well, I guess. In this film it’s a drag. It’s so irritating, that I nearly turned off the film.

The film wants us to believe, that the criminals are very clever con-artists, so to convince us of that, it starts off by showing at least three of these people to be blabbering idiots. Very convincing. Lee Moon-sik’s character is especially annoying and unbelievable.

It is the director’s first film, so maybe the studio wanted this comedy angle, and he had to add it. It seems incredible to me, that a director (he was also the writer, remember?) can include such lame comedy in an otherwise very nicely constructed sophisticated plot.

Fortunately this lame comedy is only present in the first half hour of the film. When the plot really starts to twist and turn, this disastrous attempt at comedy nearly disappears.

So if you can survive that first half hour, you will be well entertained by some great actors and a very nice plot. Give it a shot, and let’s all hope, that the Director learns from this – after all this film does show, that he might make a really great film next time around.
Uffe Stegmann
July 31, 2004

Original Title
Beomjweui jaeguseong
South Korea
Choi Dong-Hun
- This is his first feature
Park Sin-yang (Choi Chang-hyok)
- Uninvited (2003)
- Hi! Dharma! (2001)
- White Valentine (1999)
- A Promise (1998)
- Motel Cactus (1997)
Jung-ah Yum (Seo In-keong)
- A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
- H (2002)
- Tell me Something (1999)
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: