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“[FILM REVIEW] KOFFIA 2015 – Tazza: The Hidden Card (2014)”

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Melbourne, 5 September The 6th Korean Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia is currently in full swing! Saturday’s film lineup kicked off with the gambling thriller Tazza: The Hidden Card, which is the sequel to 2006’s highly-acclaimed Tazza: The High Rollers.

Tazza (타짜 ‘ta-jja’) is a word used to describe someone who is a card shark or hustler, using skill and trickery to win at card games. The movie centres around the game of ‘Go-Stop’, a popular Korean card game played with a deck of hwatu (화투) , or flower cards. BIG BANG’s T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyun) stars as Ham Dae-gil, a young man from a small town with a natural talent for gambling. He starts off by playing in small pools around his neighbourhood, but finds himself in hot water after he tries to rescue his good-for-nothing uncle from a gambling den. Thus begins his foray into the city, as he seeks to evade capture and escape to Seoul. Before that, he makes a stop at lady love Heo Mi-na’s (played by Shin Se-kyung) house, declaring his love for her and promising to return in glory.

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Dae-gil quickly finds work at an institution run by a group of seasoned gamblers: Dae-gil’s friend Charlie (Lee Dong-hwi), boss Kko-jang (Lee Geung-yang), Director Seo (Oh Jung-se) and Little Madam (Park Hyo-joo). He rises quickly through the ranks as the boss recognizes his prowess at sleight of hand, and he graduates from a scruffy, denim-wearing small-time hustler to a big-time cheat with slick, colourful suits and perfectly-coiffed hair. The group comes up with a scheme to cheat wealthy Ms. Woo (Honey Lee) out of her money; however, the plan goes awry and opens Dae-gil’s eyes to just how sinister the underground world of gambling is. In a large web of lies and conspiracy, he unknowingly becomes the scapegoat and is forced to be on the run from the perverse Jang Dong-sik (Kwak Do-won), who sends chills down one’s spine as the rabid gambler who will stop at nothing to make sure any debt to him is repaid.

Dae-gil also sustains a freak injury to his hand, and can no longer make use of the finger techniques he relied so heavily on. From then on, he launches headfirst into an old-fashioned fight of good vs. evil. With his helper Mi-na and teacher Ko Gwang-ryeol (Yoo Hae-jin), can he overcome the odds and win the ultimate game of ‘Go-Stop’ with the highest stakes of all?

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The blue-chip cast delivers enthralling performances that shine through even the grisliest of scenes. T.O.P no doubt cements himself as a rising actor, with his stunning ability to cover the full emotional spectrum in his portrayal of Dae-gil. Honey Lee is excellent as the glamorous femme fatale with a secret, and Kwak Do-won‘s turn as the main antagonist caused me to visibly recoil every time he appeared onscreen. I absolutely adored Dae-gil and Mi-na’s relationship – from the first time they met in her garden, to chancing upon and looking out for each other, and then finally becoming partners. T.O.P and Shin Se-kyung pulled off a convincing on-screen romance, and my favourite scene had to be the one where they both lit up their cigarettes with the burning IOU for Mi-na’s debt.

The plot moves along at a jaunty pace, and I was kept at the edge of my seat with all the twists and turns in the story. There were also couple of extremely intense and gory scenes, which I felt truly depicted the gritty realism of the seedy underground gambling scene. It was certainly an eye-opening experience (not just because of T.O.P’s shirtless scenes!), and definitely worth a watch.

Runtime: 147 minutes

Tazza: The Hidden Card screening times:

  • Perth – 19 September
  • Adelaide – 26 September

For the full screening schedule and ticketing information, visit www.koffia.com.au!

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