The Taste of Money
Directed by Sang-soo Im, The Taste of Money is a South Korean film about the wickedness of the wealthy and the corruptive, corrosive power of money. The story follows Joo Young-Jak (Kang-woo Kim), a low-paid errand boy in the employ of the super-rich Baek/Yoon family. After years of loyal service, Joo is seemingly on the verge of moving up in the family business when unfortunately things begin to unravel. His employers succumb to temptation, desperation and infighting, dragging the idealistic Joo down into their twisted reality.
As Joo, Kim does a fine job of portraying a character torn between his aspirations and his morality. Yeo-Jung Yoon (who plays Joo’s cruel boss, Baek Geum-ok) only exceeds his performance, revelling in her role as unhinged mother, wife and master manipulator, and showing no remorse for her increasingly vile actions. Yun-shik Baek also shines as Geum-ok’s husband, Chairman Yoon, a man married into money and now dishonourably striving to be rid of its trappings.
Unfortunately, not all performances are so strong. Darcy Paquet’s effort as scheming businessman Robert Altman is almost cringe-worthy as the actor stiffly delivers his lines with a staggered, monotone cadence. Joo-wan On also struggles in the role of the son, Chul, though to On’s credit, it feels that his character suffers more from poor direction than a lack of acting ability.
In fact, Im’s overall direction really is the downfall of The Taste of Money. As various plot devices emerge and the story attempts to build to its climax, the film becomes a tangle of ideas. There’s a lack of cohesiveness between the sub-plots and the main storyline, which turns out to be a love affair between Joo and his employer’s daughter Nami (Kim Hyo-jin).
This transition of focus – from tale of corrupt power to love story – leaves the former somewhat unresolved. The movie never realises its potential and becomes heavier-handed as things progress – complete with flash rain for the dramatic finish. In the end The Taste of Money satisfies as neither a critique on the influence of opulence nor a tribute to the redemptive power of love. Although well-shot (capturing a world of wealth as cold as the cash it’s founded on) and despite some spirited acting, Im’s The Taste of Money leaves you with neither ponderous ambiguity nor satisfying conclusion.
The Taste of Money is released in selected cinemas on 25th October 2013.
Watch the trailer for The Taste of Money here: