비스티 보이즈 (Beastie Boys)
South Korea, 2008, 126’, Korean
Directed by: Yoon Jong-bin
Script: Yoon Jong-bin, So Jae-won
Photography (color): Goh Nak-seon
Editing: Kim Woo-il, Lee Yeon-jung
Art Direction: Seo Myung-hye
Music: Kim Hong-jib
Producers: Jang Won-seok, Yoo Jae-hyuk, Kim Dong-hwan, Choi Do-hoon, Kim Young
Cast: Yoon Kye-sang (Seung-woo), Ha Jung-woo (Jae-hyeon), Yoon Jin-seo (Ji-won), Lee Seung-min (Han-byul), Ma Dong-seok (Chang-woo), Yoo Ha-joon (Won-tae), Kwon Yul (Ji-hoon)
Date of First Release in Territory: April 30th, 2008
Cheongdam-dong is an upscale district of Seoul that by day is filled with shoppers buying luxury goods, and by night becomes a place where people with money seek pleasure. Seung-woo (Yoon Kye-sang) is a newcomer to the host bar industry (he says it’s just temporary). His female clients pay for company, conversation, flirtation and whatever else can be negotiated after a night of heavy drinking. If they treat him like an object, that’s just a part of the job. Some percentage of his customers, perhaps ironically, are women working in hostess bars, who at the end of their shift may want nothing more than to turn the tables and spend time as the customer, rather than the entertainer. Seung-woo is good-looking and clearly in demand, but he’s not quite sure how to act, and feels like a fish out of water.
It is Jae-hyeon (Ha Jung-woo), his more experienced co-worker, who takes it upon himself to show Seung-woo the ropes. He has all kinds of advice, from how to treat customers, how to keep in shape and what make-up to wear. Jae-hyeon also sees himself as a bit of an expert in conning rich women, although this doesn’t seem to have helped him stay out of debt. The boss of the club where they work, played by Ma Dong-seok (before he became everyone’s favorite movie star), is owed a lot of money by Jae-hyeon, and his threats are getting steadily more serious. Jae-hyeon tries to squeeze more cash out of his current girlfriend Han-byul, but there is a problem: she is Seung-woo’s sister.
What kind of effect must it have on a person’s psyche to live and work in an industry where intimacy and desire are such carelessly traded commodities? Can one learn to trust anyone, or establish any meaningful relationship in such an environment? These are the sorts of questions posed by director Yoon Jong-bin in Beastie Boys (sometimes known by the alternate title The Moonlight of Seoul), and the answers he offers up are far from encouraging.
When we are first introduced to the two main characters, their charisma is front and center. It’s a testament to Ha Jung-woo and Yoon Kye-sang’s talent and innate charm that as the plot progresses and they become steadily more unlikeable (even despicable), there is a part of us that still wants them to be given a second chance. In this way, Beastie Boys pulls our emotions in several directions at once.
To what extent are these characters who emerge into the streets of Seoul at night representative of the country as a whole? We might be tempted to think that this is a special case; that society in general is not so pathogenic as to create such emotionally damaged people. But I think that question especially is meant to linger in the viewer’s mind. Is this Yoon Jong-bin’s critical take on a specialized underground industry, or a dark allegory about life in contemporary Korea?
Yoon Jong-bin studied at Chung-Ang University, where he directed the low-budget The Unforgiven. Yoon’s first commercial feature Beastie Boys centered on male hosts in Seoul’s nightlife districts. In 2012, the Busan-set drama Nameless Gangster was a commercial breakthrough. He followed that up with Kundo: Age of the Rampant, a tale of bandits set in the Joseon Dynasty, and The Spy Gone North, which screened in Cannes’ Midnight Section and amassed 5 million admissions. Apart from directing, he has also produced the box office hits A Violent Prosecutor (2016), Money (2019) and The Closet (2020).
2005 – The Unforgiven
2008 – Beastie Boys
2012 – Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time
2014 – Kundo: Age of the Rampant
2018 – The Spy Gone North