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The Show Must Go On,

Directed by Han, Jae-rim 2007
18 December 2009

The film portrays the life of a mid-level gangster trying to balance work life and family life, with disastrousresults. Kang In-gu is an ordinary father and husband, at least in his own eyes. He worries about his estranged teenage daughter, who is doing poorly at school. He struggles to earn money, in the hope of moving his family out of their drab apartment with its awful plumbing, into a bigger home. Nonetheless, In-gu is a gangster, his profession, anything but ordinary. The Show Must Go On follows In-gu, played brilliantly by Song Kang-ho, through a series of ordinary and not-so-ordinary days.

What we see is not particularly glamorous -- In-guís work looks tedious and ugly and his disagreements with colleagues and rivals are petty. Nonetheless it is a means of bringing home the cash. When a crisis at work leads to disaster at home however, he faces the prospect of losing everything, all at once.

In his debut feature, Rules of Dating, Director Han Jae-rim transformed a relationship drama into something unexpectedly real and frank, while also exploring issues of power, gender and sexual harassment. In the gangster film The Show Must Go On, it is not so much the tension as a sense of irony that propels the film forward. In the process of bringing In-gu down to a very human level, we find many of our expectations overturned and our viewer loyalties thrown off-balance.

In-guís actions are familiar to us from any number of previous gangster films: he uses crude violence to force a hostage to sign a contract, he bribes people in power and he calls in a group of stick-wielding thugs to break up a protest by striking workers. However, what works so smoothly in other gangster movies only seems to bring on further complications and embarrassment in this film.

Hanís directorial skills ensures a deliciously funny, biting prologue followed by an intricately staged situation of chaos. Much of the drama and humour comes from the way the director exposes his central characterís underlying vulnerability and incompetence, all the while covering it up with macho bluster in a way that the jokes and quips have a certain sense of pathos.

The film represents another memorable effort by an intriguing young director and one of Korean cinemaís top actors.
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