Beasts Clawing at Straws (2020) Review – A Series of Unfortunate Events


Korean action drama are filled with Cheap gangsters, villainous ladies with dragon tattoos and dumb-witted assassins and comic detectives trying to find stolen cash, and Debuting director Kim Yong-hoon’s Beasts Clawing at Straws is no different.

Adapted from a Japanese novel by Keisuke Sone, the film in its simplest form is about a Louis Vuitton bag of money misplaced. Thus, an enthralling pursuit begins, by a lot many different characters to get hold of that bag, obviously for themselves. The film starts off broad, with every character having their own set-up, story-line, and motivations. The film lines up the chase nicely without losing the plot, and the humor throughout really helps set the pace for what is quite a serious movie later on.

The Story

Beasts Clawing at Straws incorporates a lot of characters that a normal cinema goer audience can perceive, yet I will try to decipher them with their background plots.

Jung-man (Bae Sung-woo), working as a desk clerk in a bathhouse discovers the money in a locker and moves the bag to a storage room without initially touching the surprising contents. Life’s been rough for him recently: He and his wife work menial jobs after going bankrupt and they’re living with his irritating mother (Yun Yuh-jung) who’s got early-stage Alzheimer’s; in addition, his daughter failed to get a student loan. While essentially an honest man, he finds it hard to resist the lure of so much cash found in the bag.

Customs agent Tae-young (Jung Woo-sung) is already late repaying loan shark Mr. Park (Jung Man-sik), and if he doesn’t come up with the goods real soon, he’s likely to lose some limbs courtesy of Park’s silent hitman (Bae Jin-woong). In another part of town, Mi-ran (Shin Hyun-been) is the sole classy prostitute in a “hostess” bar run by ultra-cool madam Yeon-hee (Jeon). Mi-ran’s relatively new to the game, but after getting scammed, she needs to earn money and get away from her abusive husband. When client Jin-tae (Jung Ga-ram) falls in love with her and learns she’s being beaten at home, he offers to knock off her husband in a drive-by “accident” so she can collect the insurance money.

Integrates Cliche Characters in an Intriguing Story-line

Unexpected connections between characters are discovered in Beasts Clawing at Straws, as timelines catch up and merge, with plenty of characters conning each other infolding a fair number of murders. These timelines end at the beginning of the movies, where Jung-man gets hold of the bag and decides what to do with the money. 

Through the film, Kim manages to keep the performance of the actors balanced, which somehow helped to keep complicated plot twists as clear as possible. One of the most peculiar things about it, is it’s attention to color schemes which are different for every single character. Every color symbolizes something for that character, often motivation, and when you catch on to it, it’s enjoyable to figure it out.

The standout of Beasts Clawing at Straws is the marvelous performance of Jeon as the chic madam who turns out to have an important connection to Tae-young.  The complete absence of virtues in her characters, helped her to put on a face with different shades that adds a considerable level of fun and interest in the film. 

To call Beasts Clawing at Straws,  a roller coaster of events would be too extreme, it’s more like a theme park ride, fun, enjoyable, the odd highs, the odd lows. It keeps you invested throughout. It is fun, grasping, and full of good performances. A worthy debut for Kim Yong-Hoon, who has done a commendable job as a first time director.

Beasts Clawing at Straws is a South Korean crime thriller film written and directed by Kim Yong-hoon released in 2020. The marks the debut of Kim and is based on the 2011 Japanese novel of the same name by Keisuke Sone. Beasts Clawing at Straws is available on Video-on-Demand.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 8 years, majorly writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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