Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Bargain is the new 6-episode series based on the short film by The Call director Lee Chung Hyeon. After getting trapped in a building that collapsed in an earthquake, the three people go through a bloody struggle for their own profit. Director Jeon Woo Sung, who took part in the production of the short film Bargain, helmed the series, and actors with impressive skills such as Jin Sun Kyu, Jeon Jong Seo, and Chang Ryul lead the work powerfully.
There were worries that the drama adaptation would halve the charm of the original film. Fortunately, however, you’ll know that such worries were in vain just ten minutes into the remake that flawlessly reproduced the original film. The drama cleverly broadens the branches of the story by giving the main characters Hyung Soo (Jin Sun Kyu) and Ju Young (Jeon Jong Seo), who were drawn flat in the short film, a unique purpose and story. On top of that, the building that collapsed in an earthquake is dizzyingly captured, giving viewers the fun of playing a game as the characters clear the quests they face and move on to the next stage. And the world they face after escaping the building completely overturns expectations and foretells a whole new incident. In fact, Bargain is linked to the upcoming movie Concrete Utopia; the two projects’ ambition to expand a 10-minute short film into a worldview comparable to that of the universe of a famous movie franchise is quite extraordinary.
The “one-take filming” of the original film matched well with the overall story, becoming a hot topic. The drama also proceeds in the same format, making the flow of the various situations more vivid and tense. The camera constantly follows the main characters and deliberately creates blind spots, naturally creating a sense for viewers as if they’re watching everything on the scene. The actors also show performances that seem as if they’re right in the middle of the action, harmonizing with each other without allowing even an inch of error.
Bargain is largely centered on the three people’s struggle for their own interests. The main characters are Noh Hyung Soo, who gets caught in an unexpected crisis while trying to buy a high school girl prostitute; Park Ju Young, who seduces men into a trap and auctions off their organs; and Go Geuk Ryeol (Chang Ryul), who needs to buy an organ for his father. Interestingly, all of them are calculating and selfish. If anything goes against their own interests, they easily betray and push whoever it is into a trap. Their clashes are packed with conspiracies and threats, and the commotions they create are both funny and eerie at the same time. Therefore, even while clicking their tongues at them, viewers can not take their eyes off the show, wondering who will survive in the end.
Bargain provides a new kind of fun by adding elements that were not in the original film, but there are also noticeable shortcomings. The pros and cons of one-take filming are quite clear. As mentioned earlier, this filming method gives a sense of realism to the story, but it often drags out the plot contrary to its original intention. The video continues without editing, the angles are disappointing, and it fails to capture the actors’ great chemistry. Especially in episode 4, when many characters are gathered in one place, things look cluttered and unfocused. There’s also a limit to processing characters’ emotions only through screaming and yelling. Also, there are times when it feels like the situations feel restricted because of the filming technique. In a way, it feels more like a play on a stage rather than a drama. They could’ve described the building that collapsed in more detail, so the result is quite unfortunate.
But all in all, this shortcoming isn’t all that bothersome thanks to the fury of the story that continues until the end and the actors’ explosive acting. Rather, its expandability of scaling up a short story with an ingenious idea and linking with various projects including Concrete Utopia is quite formidable. The worldview to be unfolded after Bargain is hinted at in episode 6, and I’m already curious as to how this ambitious project will shine in the movie. (8/10)
Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.