The Quiz Show Scandal 퀴즈왕
2010, colour, 1.85:1, 119 mins
Directed by Jang Jin (장진 | 張鎭)
By Derek Elley
Tue, 02 November 2010, 01:39 AM (HKT)
Upbeat, entertaining social satire centred on corrupt contestants in a big-pot TV competition. Asian film weeks.
Seoul, February 2010. Four cars are caught up in a pile-up on the Gangbyeon Expressway into Seoul one night when a young woman, Im Yeon-yi, seemingly throws herself into the traffic. In the first car are Do Ho-man (Song Yeong-chang), whose wife is in a coma in hospital, and his cockily brilliant student son, Ji-yong (Lee Ji-yong); in the second are a gambling-addicted husband, Kim Sang-do (Ryu Seung-ryong), his nagging wife Jang Pal-nyeo (Jang Yeong-nam) and their young daughter; in the third are two gangsters, Lee Do-yeob (Kim Su-ro) and Park Sang-gil (Han Jae-seok), who will "fix" anything for money; and in the last car are four members of a depression-therapy group - club president Kim Jeong-sang (Kim Byeong-ok), high-school student Kim Yeo-na (Shim Eun-gyeong), French teacher Lee Sang-hun (Lee Sang-hun) and a mobile phone salesman (Lee Mun-su). They are all taken to Yongsan police station to sort out what happened, and are joined by others brought in for questioning, including restaurant delivery boy Oh Cheol-ju (Ryu Deok-hwan) and a drunk, Lee Jun-sang (Im Won-hui). Everyone in the room learns that the dead woman set questions for the big-money TV programme Quiz Show and that a memory stick in her bag contains the answer to the final question for next month's show. No one has ever succeeded in answering all 30 questions because of the legendary difficulty of the final one: the show's accumulated pot is currently US$10 million. They all hurriedly brush up their general knowledge to apply to take part in the show, and by the night in question the pot has climbed to US$13.5 million. What they don't realise, as the show goes to air live, is that the organisers are running their own private scam, and Lee Do-yeob has decided to "fix" things his own way.
Though he's had his fair share of misses — most recently, the ambitious political satire Good Morning President 굿모닝 프레지던트 (2009) — writer-director JANG Jin 장진 | 張鎭 still occupies an almost unique place in current South Korean cinema, continuing to produce entertaining, socially relevant movies in which writing and characterisation are paramount, as in the early years of New Korean Cinema. With The Quiz Show Scandal 퀴즈왕 (2010) and the delicious The Recipe 된장 (2010) (directed by Anna LEE 이서군 | 李曙君 but written and produced by Jang), 2010 has become a banner year for the 39-year-old playwright, screenwriter and director. Though it unaccountably disappointed at the local box office, despite a superb ensemble of character actors and slick mounting, Quiz Show is one of his classiest movies, up there with the offbeat romance Someone Special 아는 여자 (2004) and assassins black comedy Guns & Talks 킬러들의 수다 (2001).
As in many of his best scripts, like A Hot Roof 개같은 날의 오후 (1995), Murder, Take One 박수칠 때 떠나라 (2005) and Welcome to Dongmakgol 웰컴투 동막골 (2005), Jang excels in ensemble pieces which start from a high-concept idea and let it run. Quiz Show's is up there with his best — a motley group of people, brought together by a car pile-up, discover in advance the answer to a show's final brain-teaser — and he uses it as a springboard to satirise a wide range of South Korean society, business, corruption and nationalism. The dexterity with which the screenplay is constructed — built on two long setpieces (in a police station and during the show's live broadcast) — establishes each of the large cast with deft strokes, and the final half-hour of the studio broadcast further develops their characters in between springing several surprises. Only one other Asian writer-director shows the same skills in ensemble and script contruction — Japan's MITANI Koki 三谷幸喜 (Welcome Back, Mr McDonald ラヂオの時間 (1997), Suite Dreams ＴＨＥ 有頂天ホテル (2005), also coincidentally a playwright.
The film's upbeat, showbizzy score keeps things light and entertaining, even when Jang is poking fun at some of the pillars of modern South Korean society (academics, gangsters, touchy-feely discussion groups). And though social breakdown is never far beneath the surface, the dialogue never degenerates into verbal violence for its own sake, unlike so much of the country's recent cinema. Some characters do, unfortunately, get lost as the film develops but Jang still manages to juggle a sizable line-up. And his technical command is now the equal of his penmanship, with several magical moments, starting with the staging of the expressway pile-up.
The rich ensemble is wonderfully cast, with every actor receiving a picture credit at the end. Though it's difficult to single out individual contributions, several roles remain in the memory: IM Won-hui 임원희 (Dachimawa Lee 다찌마와 리 − 악인이여 지옥행 급행열차를 타라 (2008)) as a police-station drunk, 16-year-old SHIM Eun-gyeong 심은경 (Hansel & Gretel 헨젤과 그레텔 (2007)) as a stroppy schoolgirl, LEE Hae-young 이해영 as the corrupt quiz host, KIM Su-ro 김수로 (Vampire Cop Ricky 흡혈형사 나도열 (2006)) as the cocky main gangster and Jang regular JEONG Jae-yeong 정재영 | 鄭在詠 (Someone Special) in a cameo as a self-important taekwondoka. Jang himself pops up in a wry role as a police inspector.
The film is also known under the snappier title Quiz King (translating the Korean) and shouldn't be confused with the 2005 comedy Mr Housewife 미스터 주부퀴즈왕 (2005), starring HAN Seok-gyu 한석규 | 韓石圭, also known as Quiz Show.
ContactSales: M-Line Distribution, Seoul (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: South Korea, 16 Sep 2010.
Presented by Cinema Service (SK). Produced by Soran Playment (SK). Producers: Kim Seong-jin, Jo Hyeon-seok.
Script: Jang Jin. Photography: Kim Jun-yeong. Music: Choi Tae-yeong. Art direction: Kim Hyo-shin. Sound: Im Hyeong-geun. Special effects: Ryu Hui-jeong.
Cast: Han Jae-seok (Park Sang-gil, younger gangster), Kim Su-ro (Lee Do-yeob, the older gangster), Song Yeong-chang (Do Ho-man), Jang Yeong-nam (Jang Pal-nyeo, Kim Sang-do's nagging wife), Ryu Seung-ryong (Kim Sang-do, the addictive gambler), Lee Ji-yong (Do Ji-yong, the know-all son), Ryu Deok-hwan (Oh Cheol-ju, the Chinese restaurant delivery boy), Lee Hae-yeong (Choi Ha-yeong, the quiz host), Kim Byeong-ok (Kim Jeong-sang, the depression club's president), Lee Sang-hun (Lee Sang-hun, the French teacher), Lee Mun-su (the mobile phone salesman), Shim Eun-gyeong (Kim Yeo-na, the depressive schoolgirl, aka "ShootMePlz"), Im Won-hui (Lee Jun-sang, the drunk), Jeong Jae-yeong (Dong Chi-seng, the taekwondoka), Shin Ha-gyun (Kim Won-hae, the doctor of engineering), Go Eun-mi (Im Yeon-yi, the dead woman), Lee Su-yeong (the radio singer), Gong Ho-seok (Officer Gong), Kim Won-hae (Officer Kim), Kim Il-woong (Officer Choi), Han Seung-hui (Officer Han), Park Jeong-gi (Officer Park), Kim Dae-ryeong (Kim), Park Jun-seo (Park), Kim Jae-geon (TV station general manager), Jo Deok-hyeon (TV director), Lee Cheol-min, Jeong Gyu-su, Lee Jae-yong (academics), Lee Han-wi (Kim, the businessman at start), Jang Jin (Chief Inspector Ma), Kim Ji-yeong (female quiz show questioner), Bae Seong-il (male quiz show questioner), Lee Su-bin (Kim Sang-do's daughter), Lee Seon-hye (Park Pil-rye, the prostitute), Shin Hyeon-suk (Kim Sang-do's wife), Yu Hui-seok (TV director's female assistant), An Jang-hun (quiz show audition examiner), Shin Gyeong-in (TV weather girl), An Min-yeong, Lee Jong-pil (group members), Kim Mi-suk (wife), Kim Shi-gweon, Kim Bang-yul (bikers), Han Eul-hui (assistant producer), Han Su-jin (Choi Ha-yeong's woman), Kim Jun-yeong (French translator), Lee Dae-seung (Do Ji-yong's teacher), Park Sang-yeong (Kim Yeo-na's teacher), Seo Ji-won (Kim Yeo-na's friend), Kim Chan-yi (detective), Go Seong-il (quiz show host on TV set), Lee Sang-il, Kim Jun-mo (quiz show competitors on TV set), Son Yeol-jun, Jang Yong-bok, Kim Hae-ju, Yun Ju-man, Lee Geon-woo, Kim Jeong-gyo, Han Sang-gu, Kim Yong-gu, Jeong Seon-hye, Son Mun-sun, Kim Ji-seok, Kim Seon-chan, Lee Tae-woong, Kim Jae-ho, Hong Hyeon-cheol, Kim Ji-gyeong.