The Swindlers is directed by Jang Chang-won. The film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Seong-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana and Ahn Se-ha. The film is in the Korean language, and subtitled in English for its American exhibitions.
In 2008, a con artist swindled many people in an elaborate Ponzi scam, leading to much scandal, and even suicides. Eight years later, rumors spread that this man is still alive, despite there being prior announcements of his death. A prosecutor who was in league with the man joins forces with a fellow swindler, whose father died due to involvement with the same man. But it is not long before the plans begin to run awry with varied interests and personal greed.
The Swindlers is a film that had potential; heist movies are nothing new, but are often fun to watch nonetheless. The film features a superb Korean cast with a varied, entertaining cast of actors, but the movie is bogged down by an overlong run time, far too many plot details, characters, relationships, and other elements that simply overwhelm and confuse the viewer. It is a film that “has its moments,” but there just is not quite enough here to recommend the movie for international audiences.
As far as positives go, the movie is beautifully filmed, featuring a variety of picturesque modern Korean urban settings. The cast of characters is well-selected, and everyone puts on the best performance they can with the material given (apparently many of the people that appear in the film are “special appearance” Korean celebrities, though I cannot elaborate on this myself). While the plot points are nothing original, it is fun to see how the characters approach them in many scenes. These actors have charisma and chemistry with one another, and are clearly having fun throughout the film's duration.
Sadly, the positives are largely overshadowed by the negatives. As I previously stated, the film is nothing new or original, and when American audiences find that they have English language heist films that pull this same style of plot off to a better degree, it becomes even harder to recommend the movie. Right from the beginning of the film, the audience is overwhelmed with an onslaught of characters and their often painfully generic backstories. Keeping track of who is who quickly becomes an arduous task, and long stretches of the film are simply bland and uninteresting. There are certainly plot twists, but even these are hit and miss, although a few of them managed to hit the mark. A heist movie needs to have a streamlined plot and cast of characters, rather than try to bog its audience down with twist after twist, and unnecessary personae who wear out their welcome and become difficult to follow.
The Swindlers is not a great film, although I will not deny that there are things about it I did enjoy, namely the cast and the overall look of the film. Sadly, the abundance of needless characters, subplots, plot points, and dragged pacing takes the film down and makes it difficult to recommend. Do not rush to the theaters and see this one, but consider it as a rental title when it gets a home release.
Rating: Two out of four stars.
The Swindlers is not rated by the MPAA, but my recommended rating is PG-13 for strong language and thematic content with some scenes of violence and alcohol use.
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