K-Drama Review: Will Disney Plus Hit the Jackpot with ‘Big Bet’?

big bet disney

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

big bet disney
Credit: Disney Plus

Big Bet will probably be Disney Plus’ “trump card” of 2022, with Choi Min Sik‘s return to the drama series after 25 years and The Outlaws director Kang Yun Sung tabbed as the helmer. On top of that, “the worship icon” Son Suk Ku joined the cast, making it the highly-anticipated series that’ll give Disney plus a jackpot they’ve been wanting. With four episodes released so far, we sum up the “chips of fun” that the show has collected so far.

Cha Mu Sik’s Chronicle Unfolding in Various Timelines

The story of Big Bet begins when Mu Sik, who became a big hand in the casino after many ups and downs, is named the prime suspect in a murder case. The very first scene of the show is Cha Mu Sik looking back on his history as he’s being arrested by the police. Big Bet takes a unique approach to unrevealing the story, telling stories in three different timelines – Cha Mu Sik’s youth from his teens to 20s, his middle-aged days in the 2000s, and the present time.

He earned money using his brain despite being raised in poverty, somehow ended up as a democracy fighter after entering a college, and then went from being a successful head of an English academy to a penniless gambler: it’s like the Choi Min Sik’s version of Ode to My Father. The timelines aren’t told chronically, and how they’re used like puzzle pieces is also interesting. Cha Mu Sik’s action taken in each timeline affects the others like a butterfly effect, and it allows viewers the joy of a time-traveling story.

Choi Min Sik’s Presence that Transcends the Limits of Time

The thing that stands out the most in Big Bet is Choi Min Sik’s presence. Having returned to his first drama series in 25 years, the actor perfectly melts into the many ups and downs of Cha Mu Sik with his acting. Big Bet convincingly portrays the change in character’s appearance over time with face de-aging and AI voice synthesis technology. Choi Min Sik’s acting prowess and technology create perfect harmony, enhancing the sense of immersion. Keeping your eye on the subtle changes in Choi Min Sik’s performance depending on the timeline is another charm of the show.

Aside from Choi Min Sik’s impressive performance, Big Bet also has a slew of actors who have shown solid acting skills in movies and dramas. Lee Dong Hwi appears as Cha Mu Sik’s right arm Jung Pal; Heo Sung Tae as rival Tae Suk; Lee Kyoo Hyung as Cha Mu Sik in his 20s; and cameo appearances of Jin Sun Kyu and Ryu Hyun Kyung: throughout the show, you’ll find yourself thinking, “This one appears as well?” Big Bet‘s cast lineup is quite different from that of other Disney Plus shows, and the colorful performances of the veteran actors spice up the game. Then there is Son Suk Ku. He’ll be showing up as Sung Hoon, who plays a pivotal role in the narrative as he tracks down Cha Mu Sik’s crimes, heightening expectations. 

big bet disney
Credit: Disney Plus
Will Son Suk Ku Be the Ace in the Hole?

Despite the exciting topic and excellent ensemble of actors, Big Bet poses some regrets – the biggest one being the dragging narrative. The show uses four episodes to build up the success story of Cha Mu Sik, and the repetitive plot dulls down the excitement. And especially how Cha Mu Sik faces crises by different groups including the National Tax Service and overcomes them is just plain simple – he just faces the problem head-on without giving in to the threats. You can barely find any tense of crime thriller or the heaviness of the noir genre. Because of this, there’s no exhilarating fun that viewers feel even when the hero overcomes his difficulties. And of course, Cha Mu Sik’s charisma is overshadowed. 

Fortunately, however, there’s one card left that’ll make up for this situation. Son Suk Ku will appear from episode 5, hopefully speeding up the humdrum plot that’s been mostly about Cha Mu Sik’s self-praising story so far. Why did Cha Mu Sik become a murder suspect? What kind of plots and conspiracies are hidden behind it? The “real” story of Big Bet is coming up. All the bets made so far in the drama were merely an interlude. I hope that the race between Choi Min Sik and Son Suk Ku that’ll begin in the second half of the plot will hit the jackpot. (6/10)


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.

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