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Ghost Canyon

'Dirty Carnival'
(Gweon Tae-weon, Jo In-Seong, et al / DVD / NR / (2006) 2008 / Genius Products)

Overview: After being betrayed by a close friend, a rising gangster finds himself in a deadly fight to stay alive in this blood-drenched, martial-arts packed crime thriller. In the same heart-pounding vein of Dragon Dynasty™ titles, 'A Dirty Carnival' features an incredible and extreme gang showdown that you absolutely must see to believe!

DVD Verdict: A small time thug collecting debts for the local triad is torn between his criminal aspirations and his devotion to family in writer/director Yoo Ha's epic crime drama. Byeong-du (Jo In-seong) is a twenty-nine year-old Seoul gangster who's looking to rise up through the ranks. Though his ambition is unmistakable, Byeong-du finds his family's financial problems taking a heavy emotional tool as he attempts to intimidate the locals into paying off their lingering debts.

It seems that a local real-estate developer is attempting to pressure Byeong-du's mother into selling the family home, but Byeong-du's boss Sang-cheol (Yun je-mun) can't be bothered to care about the problems of his low-level cog. When a rival gang shows up looking to put the hurting on Byeong-du's gang, Sang-cheol blatantly violates the gangster code and Byeong-du becomes right hand man to powerful crime kingpin Hwang Heui-jang (Cheon Ho-jin).

Later, after cementing his loyalty to Hwang by killing a local prosecutor, Byeong-du runs into former school chum Min-ho (Nam-gung Min). It seems that Min-ho is about to shoot a gangster film, but first he needs some help getting the script finished. Unfortunately for all involved, Byeong-du's fateful decision to help out his old friend will have tragic consequences.

Complex, multilayered plot manages to keep all characters in the narrative frame. The shocking, unexpected ending, following a powerful set piece in a booming discotheque, sees the cycle of ambition and desire continue, with new players.

Performances are on the money at every level, from Jo (hitherto not a remarkable actor) as the cocky but emotionally needy Byeong-du and Cheon ("The Big Swindle") as the smooth, paternalistic jopok boss. Min nicely underplays the exploitative side of Min-ho and is given at least one scene -- in which he asks Byeongdu what it's like to kill a man - that shows his own conflict at callously exploiting a friendship.

Smaller roles all get their time in the sun, with Lee making Hyeon-ju much more than just a token g.f. part, and Jin Gu gradually emerging from the dramatic fabric as Byeong-du's trusted sidekick. Choi Hyeon-gi's widescreen lensing and slightly saturated colors add to the pic's emotional richness, and all other tech credits are excellent. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and comes with the Special Features of:

Making of the Action Scenes
Deleted Scenes