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Beastie Boys
Beastie Boys

Yoon Kye-Sang (left) and Ha Jeong-Woo (right) in Beastie Boys.
AKA: The Moonlight in Seoul
Korean: 비스티 보이즈
Year: 2008  
Director: Yoon Jong-Bin  

Yoon Jong-Bin

  Cast: Yoon Kye-Sang, Ha Jeong-Woo, Yoon Jin-Seo, Lee Seung-Min, Ma Dong-Seok, Yoo Ha-Joon, Kwon Se-In, Bae Jin-Ah, Hong I-Joo
  The Skinny: An involving but unsentimental look at the Korean host industry, Beastie Boys is a strong character drama with superb performances and direction.
Kevin Ma:
The underbelly of Seoul’s glamorous nightlife is thoroughly examined in the dark Korean character drama Beastie Boys. Marking only the second film from writer-director Yoon Jong-Bin, Beastie Boys is an unflattering look at the world of male hosts and the complications that come with working in the industry. With little plot progression, Beastie Boys relies almost fully on its characters and the actors who play them to keep the long 126-minute running time engaging. Except for a few sluggish moments and a slow start, that’s exactly what the film achieves.

Placing an emphasis on reality, Yoon shoots the entire film in the style of a documentary, observing events in long takes with his roaming handheld camera while featuring very few close-ups. The intimacy-free approach follows the gradual descent of two male hosts’ lives. Ha Jeong-Woo, who played a homosexual soldier in Yoon’s debut Unforgiven, is Jae-Hyun, a confident veteran host who’s deep in debt, despite a penchant for scamming other female hosts. His live-in girlfriend Han-Byul, a hostess herself, continues to stay with him, even though she understands Jae-Hyun’s game all too well.

Meanwhile, Han-Byul’s brother Seung-Woo (Yoon Kye-Sang) is a popular newcomer under Jae-Hyun and sees his job only as a temporary gig. The film constantly emphasizes the fact that male hosts tend to date their female counterparts, especially in its focus on the burgeoning romance between Seung-Woo and female host Ji-Won. However, love may not be the reason for the pattern. One of the most interesting aspects of Yoon’s film is the constant paranoia felt by hosts of both genders that the person they’re dating is out to scam them for their money. While most films about this profession focus on the relationship between the hosts and their clients, Yoon takes a rare look at the effect of the job on the hosts’ relationships with each other.

Yoon also has no hesitation in deglamorizing the film’s subject and its characters. Both Jae-Hyun and Seung-Woo have unlikable qualities (one borders on being a professional con artist, and the other becomes consumed by his paranoia), especially in their use of violence against women. Despite the film’s intent of being a character study, their characters don’t quite experience the positive changes that one might expect in a film. To some possible frustration, the characters’ likeability actually deteriorates over the course of the film, with little room open for any eventual redemption. Nevertheless, the characters' changes are never less than convincing, and the characters remain intriguing and worth following despite their gradual downward spiral.

Much of that is due to the two lead performances. Ha Jeong-Woo successfully portrays both the charming and the despicable side of Jae-Hyun, making him a likable character worth following, even as his more despicable qualities grow increasingly apparent. Meanwhile, Yoon Kye-Sang balances creepy paranoia and pathetic self-pity as the equally charming Seung-Woo. Since Beastie Boys simply spends two hours on these two characters, Ha and Yoon’s performances are vital to making the film a worthwhile sit. Both characters have their respective dark sides, but the actors also have natural good looks and charm to make them convincing hosts.

Despite the seemingly glamorous subject matter, Beastie Boys is an unlikely mainstream film. From the documentary style to the morally-deficient characters, the film doesn't exactly make for an enjoyable trip to the multiplexes. Yet, the film is surprisingly involving, as Yoon subtly reveals the darker side of the host industry by gradually pulling back one layer after another. The script also takes its time to delve into its characters, eschewing dense plotting and exposition for character development. The plot itself is actually quite simple, but the characters are multi-layered and complex, making for a rare film that involves audiences based on the characters alone. Even though the film has its sluggish moments, the performances and Yoon’s dedication to maintaining realism make it consistently involving, though not necessarily crowd-pleasing. The film lacks a clear resolution, but Beastie Boys is one of the best character dramas to come out of Korea in recent years, and Yoon Jong-Bin is now officially a writer-director worth watching. (Kevin Ma, 2008)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Edition
Fantom Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable Korean and English Subtitles
Various Extras

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