Surprise ending doesn’t help familiar story line

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Surprise ending doesn’t help familiar story line

The head of an art gallery, Bae Tae-jin (Eom Jeong-hwa), and art restoration expert Lee Kang-jun (Kim Rae-won) are up to no good. That much is pretty evident from the get-go of “Insa-dong Scandal,” a tale of deceit centered around the struggle for a prized painting from the Joseon Dynasty.

Bae is widely respected yet also feared in art circles for her relentless ability to get whatever she wants. Lee is a brash young restoration expert with the skills to match his personality. He is supposed to be the best in the business, possessing “hands of god” that can bring age-old paintings back to life.

Hired by Bae, Lee’s job is to restore a 400-year-old Joseon period painting called “Byeokando.” A proper restoration of the classic will fetch Bae and Lee the largest sum ever for a Korean art piece. With huge media attention on the effort, a cast of shady characters flock to the scene like the Baltimore Ravens defense swarming a hapless running back.

Although everything is allegedly on the up-and-up early in the movie, you quickly get the feeling there’s more to the story (hint: there’s a surprise ending). But whether the ending is actually relevant to the film, which looks more suitable for a weeknight run on cable than the big screen, is questionable.

The real question is whether the casting director was still recovering from a night of binge drinking when he made his decisions.

Eom is convincing in her role as the cold-hearted, calculating Bae. As for Kim’s portrayal of Lee? Not so much. There’s a clear flaw in the development of his character, and he does not come across as the art restoration expert he is supposed to be. Rather, he looks more like the wine-sipping son of a well-to-do family living off his father’s wealth.

And then there’s Hong Soo-hyeon, who plays the role of a hard-nosed, tough-talking detective that doesn’t back down from criminals twice her size. Perhaps they could have given her a shaved head and camouflaged pants to toughen her exterior, as she just looked awkward in the part.

The film has all the makings of a clever drama with a surprising twist. However, the backbone of the film looks all too familiar, and the movie just doesn’t offer enough to make this plot work.

Insa-dong Scandal

Drama / Korean

109 min.

Coming soon to DVD


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]

The poster for “Insa-dong Scandal”
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