With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ACF 1626: TAZZA : THE HIGH ROLLERS - DVD review

CJ Entertainment
and 5 Points Pictures
present
Tazza: The High Rollers / Tazza
Directed by CHOI Dong-hoon
South Korea, 2006, 140 minutes
Special Edition 2-disc DVD 

Tazza is a Korean word that refers to "a person who is gifted at gambling." Warehouse worker Goni (CHO Seung-woo, The Sword With No Name) loses not only his money but also that of his family in a game of hwatu, a Korean card game also known as "The War of Flowers." He decides to become tazza in order to recoup his losses. To achieve this he implores a professional gambler, Mr. Pyeong (Baek Yoon-sik, The Taste of Money) to train him.

Goni, as portrayed by CHO Seung-woo

Pyeong, who raised hwatu to an art form, was the best gambler in Korea but is now retired and lives a quiet life. Initially he turns Goni down, but ultimately becomes won over by his determination and agrees to teach him. Besides the standard tricks, he also imparts to Goni his four "Rules of Gambling":

1. Become a beast.
2. Watch out for your own back.
3. Don't be too selfish
4. There are no friends for life, just as there are no enemies for life.

Mr. Pyeong, Madam Jeong, Goni, and Jeong's "inside man" leave after a successful "operation."

For a time the two join with Madam Jeong (the lovely and voluptuous KIM Hye-soo, the "Memories" segment of 3 Extremes II) and Gwang (YOO Hae-jin, Moss). But in the world of professional gambling, allegiances often shift and betrayals can be common and vicious. Who will survive, who will not, and who will be on top when the last hand is dealt?

Gwang, left, and Goni

Tazza: The High Rollers is based on an epic manhwa (comic) of more than ten volumes by HUH Young-man and KIM Se-young. Director CHOI faced several challenges. One was whittling down the material to feature film length and crafting a coherent story with a reasonable number of characters. Also, since gambling is basically a sedentary activity with minimal movement (dealing cards, placing bets and raking in one's winnings), he had to, as he put it in one of the extras on the second disc, "to breathe an air of vigor into the movie," which meant that either the people in frame or the camer, or both, had to move. He achieved this by shooting with two cameras, face-paced cuts, panning, tracking, and zooming when necessary.

Madam Jeong demonstrates the "show panties" trick used to distract the mark.

Once again CJ Entertainment has gone out with an abundance of outstanding special features:

- "Comic vs. Movie"
- "Adaptation of the Comic"
- "The Making of Tazza: The High Rollers"
- "Curiosity About Anti-Social People"
- Cast discussion about Tazza
- Documentary about the action sequences
- Art and set design documentary
- "Hwatu: The Gambler's Tricks and Techniques" - former professional gambler JANG Byeong-yun demonstrates the tricks gamblers use in shuffling, dealing off the bottom of the deck, etc., tricks he taught the cast and the director
- Deleted and alternate scenes with on/off director commentary
- Promotional footage - five Tazza: The High Rollers trailers
- 5 Points Pictures trailers - other CJ offerings from 5 Points Pictures

The only thing that I would have liked included would have been a brief tutorial about the rules of hwatu. But you can't always get everything, and I don't think anyone could legitimatize complain about the extras.

An accomplice suggests a mark touch her breasts for good luck.

Tazza: The High Rollers is a most entertaining film that offers some insight into the rough and tumble world of professional gambling in Korea.

ACF Ratings: 3 out of 4 stars for the film (solidly recommended); 3.5 out of 4 for the extras (superior).

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