By Reinier Brands
“Beasts Clawing at Straws” is a film of different perspectives and different personalities. Kim Yong-Hoon starts his feature film debut strong with this thrilling ride through what could only be explained as some kind of a mix between a thriller, a mystery and a black comedy, not conforming to just one genre.
Adapted from a Japanese novel by Keisuke Sone, the film is, in its simplest form, about a very recognizable Louis Vuitton bag of money. Several people are after it throughout the movie, some for more sinister reasons than others. The film starts off broad, separated, and every character having their own set-up, storyline, and motivations. You’d say this could become boring, but it sets the film up nicely without losing the plot, and the humor throughout really helps set the pace for what is quite a serious movie later on.
To call the movie a rollercoaster would be too extreme, it’s more like a theme park ride, fun, enjoyable, the odd highs, the odd lows. It keeps you invested throughout, and as a film fan it gives you an extra little push with small details that the regular audience might miss, but are subconsciously quite important. One such detail is the color schemes and the fact that these are different and returning for every single character. Every color symbolizes something for that character, often motivation, and when you catch on to it, it’s enjoyable to figure it out.
After the movie, I asked director Kim Yong-Hoon what he would’ve done differently in the film, had he had an unlimited budget. After thinking for a bit, he said he might have had other actors for the roles. However, I don’t think this would’ve been necessary at all. The movie is incredibly well cast, with Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Woo-sung being the biggest stars, but Bae Seong-woo being the real surprise for me, with him being both relatable and funny.
The movie was well directed, the comedic timing probably being its highlight throughout, although I did believe the music to be a bit too overwhelming at parts, detracting from the experience. Apart from that, the movie being set into different chapters was in my opinion quite unnecessary, since, even if this does have a small payoff near the end, it doesn’t seem to necessarily pace the movie differently or make anything more clear; if anything it just makes certain decisions more confusing.
“Beasts Clawing at Straws” is fun, grasping, and full of good performances. A worthy debut for Kim Yong-Hoon, who I hope will try his hands at an actual comedy next, as I’d be convinced he could pull it off incredibly well