Thursday, March 28, 2019

Money: The Wolf of Yeouido

A broker’s job is relatively simple: buy low, sell high, and take your commission. They are also supposed to avoid insider trading. That will be the tricky part for Cho Il-hyun. The young broker was struggling before he started making trades on behalf of a secretive financial mastermind. Unfortunately, his high six-figure commissions come with legal scrutiny and potential physical danger in Park Noo-ri’s Money, which opens tomorrow in Queens.

Cho did not attend the right school or have the right parents, so he is stuck with a lot of gofer work as a very junior broker. That changes in a hurry when a senior broker introduces him to the mysterious money man, known simply as “The Ticket.” Cho fully understands he is violating dozens of Korean financial regulations, but he should get away with it, as long as he follows the Ticket’s security protocols.

However, Cho’s under-exercised conscience starts to reassert itself when he realizes several ineffective CEOs conveniently died to drive up the value of the Ticket’s recent stock purchases. It also dawns on him just how expendable he is to the Ticket and his dodgy circle of Yeouido financial district elites.

Money is a sleek, sharp financial thriller, that is smart about its financial shenanigans and its office politics. You can tell it is intelligent, because Park never resorts to the trite shorthand of loading up the soundtrack with tunes like Th O-Jays’ “For the Love of Money,” Pink Floyd’s “Money,” or Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want).” Instead, she surrounds Ryu Jun-jeol’s Cho with some of Korea’s best character actors, including Kim Min-jae and Jung Man-sik ravenously chewing the scenery as Cho’s colorfully corrupt seniors.

Arguably, both Ryu and Yoo Ji-tae are both a bit too pretty and bland for Cho and the Ticket, respectively, but Jo Woo-jin more than makes up for them as Han Ji-cheol, the financial services investigator, who is one of the clammiest, most off-putting cops you will ever see crusading for justice in the movies. Won Jin-ah is delightfully Machiavellian as Park Si-eun, Cho’s femme fatale girlfriend. Plus, Daniel Henney kicks up the energy level even further in his important cameo as Korean-American fund manager Roy Lee.

Watching Money will give you new respect for those unsung compliance officers. Cho never makes things easy for them. However, it is always great fun to watch the scams and schemes unfold. Enthusiastically recommended, Money opens tomorrow at the AMC Bay Terrace in Queens and the AMC Ridgefield Park in Jersey.