Back in the nineties and into the early 2000’s Japan and Hong Kong were producing some excellent movies, from all-out martial arts mayhem to brutal blood and guts galore.
One of those movies was the excellent Battle Royale directed by Kinji Fukasaku from the novel by Koushun Takami which featured school students forced to battle each other in future Japan.
Now though, things have changed, the world has moved on and it’s China and South Korea who are making inroads and, if you didn’t already think South Korea were making some great movies and series, then Squid Game is here to show you what you’re missing.
The premise of Squid Game is relatively straightforward. Over 400 strangers, each in their own level of debt, are offered the chance to compete in a series of children’s games to win some 40 million Won.
The players are gassed and taken to a mysterious island where faceless minions with guns force them to take part in child’s games, such as marbles, tug-of-war etc, but with deadly results for those who aren’t up to it.
We mainly follow Seong Gi-hun, Jung-jae Lee (“Chief of Staff (TV)”, “2036 Apocalypse Earth”), a man who is in a lot of debt, living with his mother, still gambling and trying to be a good father to his daughter.
However, he cannot get out of debt and his creditors want his body parts as payment. As he thinks he has nothing left, a mysterious man appears at the train station and offers him 100,000 Won for a game of ddakji and each game he loses the man gets to slap him across the face.
By the end of the night, Gi-hun has a very red face but does have some money and an invitation to win even more money, along with the other 400 plus people in a similar situation.
When he wakes from his forced sleep, he’s in a massive dorm area where he finds, amongst others, Cho Sang-woo, Hae-soo Park (“Prison Playbook (TV)”, “Time to Hunt”), a childhood friend, now an investment banker wanted by the police on fraud charges, amongst others.
There’s also an elderly man who says he has a brain tumour, Il-Nam, Yeong-su Oh (“The Great Queen Seondeok (TV)”, “A Little Monk”), a pickpocket from North Korea, Kang Sae-byeok, Hoyeon Jung (“The Chanel Pharrell Collection”), a gangsters, wanted for gambling debts, Deok-Su, Heo Sung-tae (“Beyond Evil (TV)”, “Psychopath Diary (TV)”) and an illegal alien from Pakistan, Ali, Anupam Tripathi (“Space Sweepers”, “Heart Blackened”).
The man running the show is the mysterious Front Man, Lee Byung-hun (“A Bittersweet Life”, “The Magnificent Seven”), who has a different mask to his minions, who either have a circle, triangle or square on them.
We also have a police officer who has made it onto the island, Joon-Ho, Wi Ha-Joon (“18 Again (TV)”, “Midnight”), looking for his brother who is missing.
On top of this, there are a whole host of other characters and side-stories and creator Dong-hyuk Hwang has done an amazing job of crafting it all together.
The series has glorious, technicolour sets, the perfect music whilst the shots in Korea are dreary and dark, highlighting the difference between the two areas of our players life.
There are twists, turns, dark humour and lots and lots of blood and gore, Dong-hyuk Hwang does not shy away from showing graphic content or extreme deaths. Squid Game might traditionally have been a child’s game, but this series from Netflix is definitely not.
18th September 2021
THE QUICK SELL
Hundreds of cash-strapped players accept a strange invitation to compete in children's games. Inside, a tempting prize awaits with deadly high stakes. A survival game that has a whopping 40-million-dollar prize at stake.
TV / STREAMING PLATFORM