Jo In-Seong is Kim Byung-Doo, a charming low-level gangster creeping up on 30 years of age. His youth rapidly fading, Kim has seemingly been on the cusp of making something of himself for years, his natural charisma making him well respected among his peers while a manipulative boss and string of bad luck has kept him firmly locked into his lowly status. When a wealthy industrialist approaches Kim's boss to eliminate a bothersome criminal prosecutor, Kim sees his long-awaited chance to advance and takes it. But all advancement comes at a cost...
A Dirty Carnival is really two films in one. The hook that will draw people in is the gangster element, the story of the rise and fall of Kim Byung-Doo through the criminal ranks. But running parallel to this story is the story of Kim's family -- his sickly mother, studious sister and aspiring gangster brother -- as well as the relationship triangle between Kim, his childhood friend and would-be film director Min-Ho, and his childhood sweetheart Hyun-Joo. There's no question which of these elements is more important to director Yoo -- the film begins with the relationship element and devotes the bulk of its running time to it -- and the real tragedy of the film begins when Kim's two disparate worlds begin to mingle.
This balancing of elements is strikingly similar to what filmmaker Yoo Ha achieved with Once Upon a Time In High School, his previous film, and it's not hard to see this effort as a logical extension, with this life of crime being an obvious end for the hardscrabble youth in his earlier film. Again Yoo demonstrates an assured hand behind the camera and a strong sense of humanity on the page. A Dirty Carnival has been hailed as one of the finest Korean gangster films in recent years, but that really feels like a misnomer. The gang here isn't the point, not at all. The people are.
“Elegantly repurposes bits and pieces of various mob classics… might be this season's must-see for fans of Asian genre film” – Andrew O’Hehir, SALON.COM
“Goes deep beneath the skin, where the cut runs bare and raw… a beautifully bitter and brutally enjoyable piece” - Samuel Jamier, KOREAN FILM SOCIETY JOURNAL
"Drew the most viewers at the box office on Tuesday, with some 80,000 viewers at 390 theaters nationwide, leaving U.S. blockbuster “X-Men: The Last Stand” behind, which tallied some 75,000 viewers at 428 theaters" - KBS entertainment news-
Hosted by Hai-Young Yun, distributor from CJ America
Director: Yoo Ha
Screenplay: Yoo Ha
Cast: Jo In-seong
Producers: Kim Mi-hee, Cha Seoung-Jae
Distributor: CJ Entertainment