- FILM & PEOPLE
- K-Cinema Library
TAZZA: THE HIGH ROLLERS
Sep 10, 2019
- Writerby Pierce Conran
2006 | 139 MIN | Drama
DIRECTOR CHOI Dong-hoon
CAST CHO Seung-woo, KIM Hye-soo, BAEK Yoon-sik, YOO Hae-jin, KIM Yun-seok
RELEASE DATE September 28, 2006
CONTACT CJ Entertainment
This year’s Chuseok holidays will welcome the return of one of Korea’s most popular film series, as Tazza: One Eyed Jack, the third film in the popular crime series, is set to hit screens on September 11. For this week’s K-Cinema Library, we’re travelling back 13 Chuseoks to revisit the first entry in the franchise, CHOI Dong-hoon’s smash hit Tazza: The High-Rollers (sometimes known as The War of Flowers), which welcomed 6.85 million viewers in 2006, second only to former all-time box office champ The Host that year.
Young factory worker Go-nee (CHO Seung-woo) has been saving for five years but one night he loses all his money in a card game. Desperate to regain his stake, his steals his sister’s alimony cash, only to promptly lose it all. He discovers that he was swindled but rather than face his family, he begins a long search for the crook who took his money, trawling through the gambling dens of the country. At one of these card halls he meets Mr. Pyeong (BAEK Yoon-sik), a brilliant card cheat who eventually takes Go-nee under his wing. After training him in the art of sleight of hand, the pair travel the land to swindle their opponents.
Down in Busan, they team up with Madame Jung (KIM Hye-soo), who takes a liking to Go-nee and takes him as her lover and assistant in her illegal gambling den. Along the way, Go-nee meets the fellow card pro Gwang-ryeol (YOO Hae-jin) and also brushes shoulders with Mr. Pyeong’s dangerous archival A-gui (KIM Yun-seok).
Based on a popular comic by HEO Young-man, though the setting was switched from the 1960s to the mid-1990s, Tazza: The High-Rollers saw director CHOI Dong-hoon follow up his successful debut, the grifters drama-thriller The Big Swindle (2004) with another cool and confident crime thriller, this time exploring the world of Hwatu, a Korean card game. Both films also share the presence of BAEK Yoon-sik as a wise criminal veteran.
What separates Tazza: The High-Rollers from CHOI’s debut is an even greater sense of confidence, both with his jaunty and stylistic tone, and its layering of narratives and timelines. Even at 140 minutes, the film never loses momentum, as it runs through a series of well-staged and coolly acted scenes that are a pleasure to watch in and of themselves, not unlike some of the highly entertainment sagas of the likes of Martin SCORSESE and Quentin TARANTINO.