April 21, 2008

War of Money

A few weeks back, I touted War of Money (click to read the previous post) as potentially a great Korean drama standing tall among classics such as Alone in Love and Flowers for My Life. The chemistry between the leggy Park Jin Hee and Park Shin Young more than sizzled the pixels on my lcd tv. Two weeks, and 10 episodes - the last half of the series - later, I am writing a post which is likely to sound like a major 'panning'.

The ingredients for a good, if not great, Korean drama are (in our view) as follows:
  • Good and well written storyline
  • Witty scripts with a dash of humour or a load of reflective thoughts
  • Great cinematography - watch Alone in Love if you want to know what I mean
  • Beautiful cast - preferred but optional
  • Moments of tenderness/Tears (Korean dramas ain't right without them)
  • Romance between the male/female leads
Money War had all the above in the first 10 episodes. The story was both tight and progressed at an exciting, yet believable, pace. The producers did well in bringing together the Parks who fleshed out their roles well. Like I said earlier, the chemistry was almost tangible in my living room as I watched the drama.

Filming/cinematography was ok as the sets were quite nicely done and the on-site locations gave the entire series a feel which related well with the theme of the drama. Park Jin Hee with her super long legs dominated the looks department while at the same time picked up the 'slack' from the rather normal looking, but extremely charismatic, Park Shin Young. There were definitely moments of TLC - tender, loving, care, between the leads, tears and sobs included.

So, what went wrong?

Both Mydaemon and I agreed on ONE thing. It's none other than the fact that the storyline and the feel of the entire series veered sharply, so sharply that we even suspected the scriptwriter(s) has changed, midway through the series. The dip, to put it nicely, in quality of the story and script was so bad they we almost gave up watching the drama. We stuck to it only because we wanted closure.


(scroll down only if you want to read more)




Things started turning for the worse when Park Shin Yang discovers that the mean loan shark bully whom he works for was the same guy who pushed his debt-ridden dad to suicide and causing all manners of family havoc in his life. Finding out the truth is actually expected, but how he dealt with it was inexplicable.

Park Shin Yang with his 'boss' in better days
(Image Source: sbs.co.kr)

First, he wanted to clobber the guy with a golf club, chasing him all over a public bath. He subsequently mulled over this fact and decided that he can let bygones be bygones as long as his loan shark boss pays him for the work done. How he overcame his anguish and hatred to make such a decision was never explained. There were some lines which I suspected was written to help viewers understand his decision, but they were vague to the point of being irrelevant. If anyone managed to decipher the 'coded' script, please enlighten me!

The chemistry so tangible between the leads was totally diluted by the meandering manner which they relationship developed. Hints were dropped now and then about a potential romance between the two Parks, pun not intended. But these hints only remained as hints. There were no serious attempts are nurturing the great chemistry into a lovely relationship. Instead the script writers decided the leads must be in love.

To elaborate, Park Jin Hee was kidnapped by the baddies in the show, the other Park risked his life to rescue her. After the rescue, the couple decided that they were indeed in love. The decision is once again inexplicable. What's more the romance started with a 'lip-locking' moment in the rear of a lorry. The attempt at making the rear of a lorry romantic totally did not connect nor evoked warm or mushy emotions. It felt surreally weird!

Shin Dong Wook trying to look sauve with his greasy long hair
(Image Source: sbs.co.kr)

The story became even more muddled as Park Shin Young competed with Shin Dong Wook over the purchase of a company by the name of "Blue Angel". The last five or so episodes focused on the posturing between Park Shin Yang And Shin Dong Wook. Frankly, the scriptwriters overenthusiasm in fleshing out this part of the story was in my opinion a mistake. The airtime could have been put to good use in developing the characters of the two leads, as well as their budding romance.

Now comes the spoiler of spoilers. Read on at your own risk...




Sad endings are not uncommon in today's dramas or movies. Flowers for My Life and Alone in Love fared really well in putting across the poignant message that life does not end happily everafter for everyone. Doubts and sadness are issues which everyone deal with some point in our lives. Kudos for the manner in which these two dramas handled the rather sad ending to the story.

War of Money had one more inexplicable twist to the story at the very end. Well, we have already come to accept the 'inexplicability' of almost every development in the War of Money, but nothing really prepared us for what was to come in the last episode.

We all know that last episodes are usually the reserve for tying up loose ends and giving closure to any subplots which could have been forgotten when stories developed. The scriptwriters did well to show that Park Shin Young defeated Shin Dong Wook in wresting over the control of Blue Angel. Yay! The two Parks finally decided to go all the way with a beautiful wedding. Yay! Yay! Friends and enemies of Park Shin Young made peace with him at his wedding. Yay! Yay! Yay!

Happy Ending? NO WAY!!!
(Image Source: sbs.co.kr)

You'd have thought, "Ah, what a beautiful ending!" That's precisely my thought till the Park's mean ex-loanshark boss turns up at the wedding. Everything seems ok as he handed Park a gift. But in a spilt second, the guy uses his walking stick to bash the brains out of Park. The drama ends with the scene of blood gushing out of Park's head wounds as he lay dying on the lawn of the church where he's getting married.

Yup, that's it.

This is definitely one of the worst ever endings for a Korean drama. While Park Shin Yang had it coming, us audience deserve a better ending. Guess that's the difference between great scriptwriters (Flowers for My Life & Alone in Love) and mediocre ones who penned War of Money. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to see the potential of a great drama to only have it end such a undignified manner.


alchocoholic said...

Hey there teddy & yupgi! Happened to surf on in while looking for stuff on kdramas and I'm loving your site. Hope u guys don't mind if I comment every now and then since I'm a new-ish kdrama fan and a bit obsessed :)

I saw War of Money a few weeks ago and I actually really liked it until the final scene. I felt so cheated! They went through hell and back together only for "that" to happen. Blech... I also felt that the kiss was a bit awkward and they got back together way too easily after their breakup. Still, it was one of the better series for the year I suppose and you gotta love park shin-yang!

Yupgi said...

Yeah I liked Park Shin Yang. He's ugly but adorable! :P