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January 5, 2017

Gang is at his best when out of his element
‘For me, filmmaking has become a hobby,’ says star of ‘Master’

Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily


It was a prolific year for actor Gang Dong-won. The 36-year-old says he finds acting as fun as a hobby. [CJ ENTERTAINMENT]

Actor Gang Dong-won has rarely been in a movie that wasn’t a commercial success.

That is, until this year. “Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned” was a bold experiment for Gang. He would’ve chosen to star in it even if he could go back in time and do it again. But with “Master,” he had a chance to try something new - play the role of detective, which he has never done before.

The crime-action film, directed by Cho Ui-seok, is about an crime investigation team led by Gang’s character (Kim Jae-myung) and their investigation of a fraud case in the corporate world.

The story is reminiscent of what is happening in Korea now: the scandal involving President Park Geun-hye, her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and conglomerates.

Below is an edited excerpt of an interview with Gang, conducted recently by Ilgan Sports, a Korea JoongAng Daily affiliate.

Q. It seems the release of the film occurred at an appropriate time. Do you agree?

A. In fact, we were concerned as the whole country is gripped by [the political scandal]. In November, moviegoers decreased 30 percent [compared to the month prior]. I actually felt the decline personally with the release of “Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned.” But I actually think that all those circumstances are the fate of a film.

Many people say it’s so similar to “Inside Men” (2015). What do you think?

I saw the cartoon version of “Inside Men” and the film. But I feel “Master” is very different. “Master” is lighter and its theme is clear. It’s about the triumph of good over evil. But there’s humor here and there. I personally don’t like films that are too brutal.

What was your chemistry like with Lee Byung-hun?

There weren’t many scenes where he and I conflicted. But I felt that he was born to act. I observed him a lot. I actually like observing people. I found him to be a little eccentric, too. He also has a good sense of humor.

Did you ever seek acting advice from him?

Some people do, but personally I’ve never really been the type that seeks acting advice. It’s also a little vague. Newbie or veteran, we are all here to work together so I believe we should respect one another. There are cases when veteran actors keep saying this and that about performances by amateur actors. That can be quite difficult.

You’re known for your style, as well. In fact, Lee is said to have been curious about all your outfits during your shoot in the Philippines. Is there a costume that you felt particularly attached to?

I have to say the priestly robe that I wore for “The Priest.” I thought clothes are merely clothes and props are just tools. But as soon as I put on the robe, I felt its weight. 

It was so different. I’ve never really wore a policeman’s uniform. I did wear a prisoner’s uniform and I did not like it (laughs).

This is your first detective character. How was it?

I actually wanted to play a detective for some time. In my 20s, I didn’t get any detective roles. As I entered my 30s, I felt that I was ready. Perhaps it’s the kind of confidence people feel when they reach their mid-30s. I also feel more open-minded than before.

Do you think confidence is important?

Yes. I always believed confidence is crucial for an actor. I think Korean education is designed to discourage people. But there was a friend of mine who was extremely confident. I was very much influenced by that friend. Also, when you have to act in front of hundreds of people, you need confidence.

Do you consider yourself a workaholic?

Actually, for me, filmmaking has become a hobby. I love talking about scripts with co-workers and creating characters with them. I also feel less stressed than before.

What’s your ultimate goal in life?

Being happy, but I want everyone in my life to be happy, as well. In the past, I thought we all live our own lives. But I don’t think that way anymore. I don’t want to be happy when others aren’t.

BY CHO YEON-GYEONG [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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January 5, 2017

(Yonhap Interview) Filmmaker breathes sigh of relief after 'Master' outdid preceding work

By Shim Sun-ah, Cho Jae-young

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- The crime-action film "Master" has become a box-office sensation surpassing the 5 million viewer mark early this week. But its director Cho Ui-seok was so afraid of the audience's response that he has yet to see the movie's completed version at a theater.

"I have not had the heart to go see the movie out of fear. I was relieved only after my acquaintances left text messages that the movie was 'thrilling.' I thanked them a lot," Cho said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency by phone Thursday.

What has impressed him the most was the film's 13 billion-won (US$10.9 million) budget, which is very high considering Korean movies' average production cost of about 2 billion won, including marketing expenses.

The movie has been one of the highly anticipated titles in the second half of last year for its star-studded casting, including Lee Byung-hun, Gang Dong-won and Kim Woo-bin, and the high budget. Industry insiders say it will easily hit the 10 million mark in attendance. The film is about an intellectual war among a notorious con man, his sly right-hand man and a police investigator over a major financial scandal.

"Actually, I have been under much pressure (for the film's commercial success) because of its casting and the high production cost that is double the amount spent for my preceding work."

Fortunately, the movie passed the break-even point only eight days after its release to local theaters on Dec. 21 and exceeded 5 million in attendance on Sunday.

This file photo shows Cho Ui-seok, director of the Korean hit film "Master." (Yonhap)

This file photo shows Cho Ui-seok, director of the Korean hit film "Master." (Yonhap)

The 40-year-old helmer stayed aloof, however, because "only heaven knows which film would hit 10 million."

"But I'll do all I can till the last minute to promote the film," he said.

Cho made his directorial debut in 2002 at age 25 for "Make It Big," drawing media attention for being the youngest feature film director in the country. In 2006, he released his second feature film "The World of Silence," but it was unsuccessful in the market, drawing only 160,000 viewers. This made him unable to release a follow-up work for seven years before receiving renewed attention thanks to the success of his third feature "Cold Eyes." The movie sold 5.5 million tickets in local theaters.

And this year, his latest film "Master" proved his ticket power in the box office, outdoing his previous title.

"My goal was just to outdo the box-office record of my preceding film, and I'm now glad to have achieved it," he said.

The filmmaker said that "Master" has plenty of "Easter eggs."

For instance, the camera shows a picture depicting David and Goliath hung on the wall in the office of Kim Jae-myeong (Gang) to deliver the director's intent to liken the righteous police investigator struggling to bring the evil business tycoon Chairman Jin and his criminal ring to justice.

"The movie provides the fun of finding Easter eggs even to those who see it a second time."

The director and cast of the Korean box office hit "Master" pose for photos during a news conference to promote the film at a Seoul theater on Dec. 12, 2016. (Yonhap)

The director and cast of the Korean box office hit "Master" pose for photos during a news conference to promote the film at a Seoul theater on Dec. 12, 2016. (Yonhap)


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Gang Dong Won and Kim Woo Bin will be in Singapore for Master Gala Premiere next week! There will also be a meet and greet session at Plaza Singapura. Details to be announced.



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Brace ourselves for the reviews dontcare.gif

January 5, 2017

Film Review: Master

Drawn-out Korean thriller pits corrupt billionaire against cops determined to defeat his pyramid scheme. Flimsy plotting drags down a showcase for some of Korea's brightest stars.

By Daniel Eagan Film Journal International


Flashy but paper-thin, Master lets its stars ham it up in crowd-pleasing turns, but drops the ball when it comes to plotting. Released in the midst of impeachment proceedings against Korean president Park Geun-hye, the film understandably struck a nerve with local audiences. Finding viewers in the U.S. will be more difficult.

Director Cho Ui-seok (who co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Hyun-deok) starts Master by focusing on Jin Hyun-pil (Lee Byung-hun), the charismatic leader of One Network, as he delivers a Steve Jobs-like address to adoring fans in a packed arena. With carefully styled hair and a megawatt grin, Jin clearly can't be trusted. Especially when he gets together with his behind-the-scenes team, computer expert Park Jang-gun (Kim Woo-bin) and femme fatale "Mama" Kim Mi-Young (Jin Kyung).

Desperate to prove that Jin is actually running a huge pyramid scheme, Financial Crimes Unit cops Kim Jae-myung (Gang Dong-won) and Shin Gemma (Uhm Ji-won) blackmail Park into turning against his boss. The locations of a secret off-site computer center and a ledger with the names of Jin's investors are the keys to the cops' case. Yes, a criminal mastermind is still writing down important evidence in a notebook just waiting to be stolen.

Cho spends almost an hour setting out the pieces of his plot, more than enough time for the leads to bluster and glower at each other and for the story to circle around itself without getting anywhere. Columns of meaningless numbers scroll up computer screens, and coded cellphones texts and voice messages repeat the obvious.

When Kim puts his sting into operation, it collapses almost at once, leading to a tightly edited car chase and an exciting fight in an expressway tunnel. The story switches to Manila, where Cho basically sets up the same narrative pieces all over again. When another sting threatens to fail, sentiment wins the day.

Lee Byung-hun, one of the better performers in last summer's Magnificent Seven remake, is effortlessly charismatic and menacing as the amoral Jin. Playing a straitlaced, by-the-book cop, Gang Dong-won seems wan by comparison, although he gets to stretch a bit in the second half when he impersonates a Harvard-trained money launderer. Goofy comic relief Kim Woo-bin switches sides several times, perhaps predicated by his numerous concussions.

Cho wants viewers to like all three leads, playing up their bromances at every opportunity. In the meantime, billions fly back and forth from one bank account to another, the emptiest kind of suspense in a genre that rarely makes any sense. Master has the look and feel of a financial thriller, which may be enough for viewers willing to overlook its smarmy, self-congratulatory tone.

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January 5, 2017

Review: It’s Slick, but ‘Master’ Is No James Bond Movie


“Master” is a routine South Korean crime thriller whose bloat magnifies its generic qualities. The movie seems to float the same double crosses two or three times.

The action kicks off with a speech by Jin Hyun-pil (Lee Byung-hun), chairman of the One Network corporation. In reality, One Network bilks investors and maintains a far-reaching web of bribes.

Although Jin’s gurulike speech might connote Steve Jobs, and the vast arena portends a set piece like the assassination that opens Brian De Palma’s “Snake Eyes,” the director, Cho Ui-seok, zeros in on an audience member: Park Jang-gun (Kim Woo-bin), One Network’s computer systems manager. After the speech, he is grilled by two officers, Kim Jae-myung (Kang Dong-won) and Shin Gemma (Uhm Ji-won), as part of a fraud investigation.

Whether they can trust Park as a mole — and whether Jin will continue to trust him — is a question that hovers over the first half, as Park and his uneasy allies try to acquire an incriminating ledger, which Jin hides behind a tastefully illuminated liquor rack in a secret basement bunker. (Like all supervillain lairs, this one comes with a giant fish tank.)

Scenery changes — much of the second half takes place in Manila — and elaborate cons (Kim impersonates a money launderer who must rank among the world’s least discreet) add to the aura of a mediocre James Bond picture. But slick production values can’t disguise the lack of imagination.

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January 5, 2017

Lee Byung Hun taunts the public and Kang Dong Won in ‘Master’    

by Tamar Herman Kultscene

The most intriguing moment of South Korean film Master comes within the first five minutes, when actor Lee Byung Hun preaches to an audience about the capricious state of public opinion and naysayers. While it’s a speech given by his character, charismatic con artist Jin Hyejang, it’s as if Lee breaks character from his role in Master to speak directly to the viewer.

“Even if there’s a person you trust and respect, when he becomes a subject of rumors and ridicule and is criticized by society, your trust in him slowly fades too.”

Lee has been involved in multiple lawsuits relating to his sexual conduct, resulting in negative public opinion despite the fact that he has more or less successfully crossed over to the American film industry. Master isn’t only about Lee Byung Hun (it also stars the talented Kang Dong Won and Kim Woo Bin), but it sure feels like the movie focuses quite a bit on his wrongdoings.

The question that hangs in the air throughout the film, thanks to this first scene, is whether the viewer can separate the actor from his role. Like many Korean action movies, the first hour is relatively slow and sets up the more blockbuster second half, giving the audience more than enough time to digest the film’s opening dialogue. Lee is daunting as Jin the conman, a bit crazed even. He takes pleasure in controlling others, enjoys hunting, drinking what appears to be blood, and has little problem with victimizing others for his gain. Clearly this is a character and not the actor himself, but the first few lines pull together fiction and reality.

But just as villainous as Lee’s Jin is, he has a counterpart in Kang Dong Won, a police officer intent on taking down the man robbing thousands of people. Both characters are extremely intelligent and sly, but Kang’s detective Kim Jae Myung regrets the violence and pain that accompanies his investigation as he inches closer to capturing Lee. There’s a sense of desperation from Kim as he hunts Jin; every moment that he doesn’t have the conman in custody, somebody else is losing their livelihood and, occasionally, their lives.There are moments where Kim appears to be enjoying the game of cat and mouse, and the finale is positively cathartic, but the character repeatedly expresses distaste at how things are turning out. While Kang Dong Won is a terrific actor, Kim has no real backstory to support his intensity and overall this leads to the film feeling a bit lackluster. Master seems to have shunned the excess of sentimentality found in many Korean movies in favor of focusing on the action, to its detriment; it may as well be a study in stereotypes of cops and robbers.

While Lee and Kang are overpowering actors in their own right, their characters were written a bit flat and one sided. In comparison, Kim Woo Bin’s Park Jang Goon is the only character to go through true growth in the film as he contemplates how his past and future actions affect those around him. He tries a bit of double crossing, and attempts to use his charm as a weapon, but it’s never quite clear where his loyalties lie. Park is like the odd man out with the other lead two characters: he’s a computer genius and the mastermind behind Jin’s plans, but when he gets involved with Kim’s police operation he seems at a total loss. (Neither Jin nor Kim ever seem baffled by what life, and the other, throws at them.)

For an action-crime film, Master is two hours of a solid face off between the law and the lawless. It offers Lee’s nefarious Jin as an antagonist for audiences to revile while Kang’s detective Kim is the eternal Good Guy, with Kim’s Park serving as the only character with any real depth. Master failed at giving either of the primary two female characters, played by Uhm Ji Won and Jin Kyung, a whole lot to do, as most of the time the men were pulling all the shots. There’s plenty of action, and some great surprises, but this cast deserved a bit better than the rather straightforward plot.

Master is directed by Cho Ui-seok, and was released in Korea on Dec. 21. According to Korean media, the film earned over $20 million USD in less than a week. It opens in the US & Canada on Jan. 6.



** to be fair to the actor, LBH was involved in one lawsuit by an ex-gf and one blackmail case he reported but such are moot points when people only write what they want to write. The movie itself is unfortunately panned by various (non-Korean critics) due to lacklustre plot and poor script.

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6 million admission. Congratulation to Master team. 
p.s. I need to watch movie before give any comments about reviews. I actully believe it should be enjoyable action flick. 
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@rubie thanks for posting those reviews 

@aureolina same :)

note: I only liked the posts because I respect their opinions, can't wait to watch it and share my review as well altho I'm bad at writing reviews ^^

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January 4, 2017

MASTER Coasts Through the New Year
ROGUE ONE Opens a Distant Second

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz


Local action-thriller Master remained the top attraction at the Korean box office over the New Year’s weekend, while Rogue One, the new Star Wars film, failed to make a significant impact far behind in second place. Local films accounted for 54% of business as 3.13 million tickets were sold. 

Down 38% after its super-sized debut, Master had no trouble holding onto the top spot over the weekend, as it welcomed another 1.37 million viewers (USD 9.7 million). This brings its haul to a robust 5.44 million spectators (USD 36.6 million) in 12 days. While the ten million mark that some have speculated is probably out of reach, a few more milestones should fall before the film finishes its run. 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had no trouble scaling to the top of the charts around the world two weeks ago, but it came up far short in its delayed Korean release, mustering just 523,000 admissions (USD 4 million) in its debut, with 770,000 tickets (USD 5.6 million) sold in its first five days. Having already slipped to fourth on the reservations chart, the Disney blockbuster is unlikely to see its fortunes improve in Korea.

Dropping 30% in its sophomore frame was US animation Sing, which shifted another 349,000 tickets (USD 2.3 million) to give it a solid 1.18 million admissions (USD 7.6 million) in 12 days. 

Not too far behind with 276,000 viewers (USD 2 million) was Hollywood musical La La Land, which continues to spellbind the nation after a 28% decline. To date the film has brought in a stellar 2.47 million spectators (USD 17.2 million). 

Closing out the top five was local disaster drama Pandora, down 42% in its fourth week for another 248,000 sales (USD 1.7 million). To date the film has accumulated 4.4 million entries (USD 28.8 million).

Down in seventh, the Japanese animated sensation Your Name had an impressive run of previews with 72,000 viewers (USD 515,000). The film opens wide on Wednesday.

Aside from Your Name, Hollywood sci-fi Passengers will also bow this week as many holdovers threaten to keep their hold on high chart positions.

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January 1, 2017

‘Master’: Film Review

by Justin Lowe THR


Narratively topical, stylistically detached.  

Cho Ui-seok’s high-stakes thriller stars ‘The Magnificent Seven’s’ Lee Byung-hun as a ruthless corporate con artist with high-level connections in South Korean politics.

Multi-level marketing companies have earned a sketchy reputation worldwide due to their pyramidal organizational structure and payout schemes, but rarely have they been portrayed as ominously as the South Korean corporation at the center of Master. This timely financial thriller could benefit from a worldwide wave of dissatisfaction with elected officials and multinational corporations after topping the domestic box office over the December 23 weekend.

As South Korea struggles through a major political scandal involving allegations of corporate malfeasance and high-level influence peddling that have led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, the obsessive commitment of Master’s anti-corruption investigator Kim Jae-myung (Gang Dong-won, A Violent Prosecutor) appears especially appropriate. Closing in on multi-level marketing operation One Network, Kim’s financial crimes investigation targets CEO Jin Hyun-pil (Lee Byung-hun) for defrauding his company’s sales staff in order to line his own pockets with the assistance of his young tech expert Park Jang-gun (Kim Woo-bin, Twenty). Without sufficient hard evidence to convict Jin, however, Kim is forced to try recruiting Park by threatening him with arrest and offering a plea deal if he’ll turn over computer evidence and documents incriminating his boss.

Park finds it impossible to outmaneuver Kim’s combination of law enforcement experience and legal expertise, so he agrees to implicate Jin by pilfering his boss’ ledger containing information on all of the cops, judges and politicians he routinely bribes to ignore One Network’s shady operations. With the contributions of thousands of investors at stake, Kim’s drive to bring down the company comes up against Jin’s ruthless business tactics when he liquidates the operation and disappears with $3 billion. Having failed to entrap Jin, Park goes into hiding and Kim receives a humiliating demotion, but the sudden reappearance of their rival six months later offers the pair another shot at bringing Jin to justice.

After this first hour of running time, Cho and co-writer Kim Hyun-deok then reboot the plot and set their characters loose to pursue one another around the slums of Manila for the remainder of the film, as Kim attempts to finally collar Jin, whatever the cost to his own reputation and career. Master continues the trend of recent South Korean anti-establishment thrillers that questions and deconstructs the authority and competence of domestic law enforcement, corporations and political elites, but also echoes a broader wave of popular dissatisfaction with the status quo that’s challenging conventional leadership from Washington to Brussels and around the world.

Cho and Kim amplify the perceived menace of corporations like One Network and both the acumen and the dedication of law enforcement for dramatic purposes, lending the narrative a recognizably melodramatic edge. A succession of twists and double crosses among the characters keeps the plot simmering at an occasionally overheated pace, however, eventually stretching credibility as the manhunt for Jin expands overseas.

Remaining aloof at the center of all of these machinations, Lee’s Jin character basks in the cult of personality surrounding his status as One Network’s CEO, keeping one step ahead of the authorities and only interacting with his staff to resolve a crisis or consummate a crooked deal. His determined disengagement provides the opportunity for Kim to stand out as the company’s conflicted traitor Park, who’s never sure where he stands with his boss or his law enforcement handlers, but still risks exposure by scheming at double-crossing them all. Following his role as a con man on the opposite side of the law in A Violent Prosecutor, Gang’s dull performance as the lead investigator drags on both the pace and the tone of Master, which is far too procedural in the first half and not nearly manic enough in the second.

In his fourth feature, Cho demonstrates cool control of tone and visual style throughout, but the film is often so deterministically plotted that a sense of creative detachment hangs over far too many scenes, leaving an impression that the filmmakers may sometimes be more interested in making grand statements than in engaging interest.

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Finally.. someone .. who likes the movie :sweatingbullets:

January 6, 2017

Master: Lee Byung-hun Wins Friends and Influences People

Source: Unseen Films

This will probably be the closest we ever get to seeing Lee Byung-hun playing Bernie Madoff. He is even sports a wavy silver mane. To be fair, Jin Pyun-gil is also considerably more violent than the former Chuck Schumer donor. Jin is one ruthless cat, but his felonious house of cards could come crashing down when his systems guy turns state’s evidence, assuming the slippery rogue stays turned in Cho Ui-seok’s Master, which opens today in New York.

Jin is natural financial Elmer Gantry, who almost convinces himself with his empowerment spiel. Of course, Park Jang-gun and “Mama” Kim Eom-ma know better. Technically, he is Jin’s systems director and she is head of PR, but all three have been in on the con for the start. The stakes really increase when Jin’s One Network announces its bid to buy a major savings bank. With the central bank chairman in Jin’s pocket, only Capt. Kim Jae-myung, an elite financial crimes investigator stands in their way, but he has leverage over the likably sleazy Park.

Master is the sort of capery con film, where each double-cross leads to a triple or even quadruple. Park is a cad and Kim is a cold fish, but Jin is a seriously flamboyant villain (who knew Lee Byung-hun had it in him?), so it is just good clean fun to watch the two heart-throbs conspiring against the international superstar.

It is also a pleasant surprise to watch Gang Dong-on (The Priests, Vanishing Time) knock it out of the park as the awkwardly cerebral Capt. Kim, arguably sharing a kinship with Columbo and “L.” from the Death Note franchise. Lee Byung-hun clearly enjoys chewing the scenery, while Kim Woo-bin similarly has a blast playing up Park’s picaresque ethical flexibility. Yet, Jin Kyung frequently upstages everyone as “Mama” Kim, the glamorous grifter. Plus, Oh Dal-su does his thing as an oily public interest attorney secretly doing Jin Pyun-gil’s bidding.

Although Master is sort of part of the cynical zeitgeist manifested in recent Korean public corruption thrillers like Inside Men and A Violent Prosecutor, it does not have a similarly exaggerated sense of itself (with its two hour, twenty-minute running time being pretty standard by Korean standards). Regardless, it is devilishly entertaining to watch the all-star cast scheme and play each other. Cho keeps the shoes dropping at a brisk gallop, nicely showcasing his ridiculously photogenic ensemble. Highly recommended for fans of ziggy-zaggy crime thrillers, Master opens today (1/6) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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