Korean Tarantino?

Beasts Clawing at Straws is one of 2020’s best thrillers bar none. Director Kim Yong-Hoon’s mesmerizing crime noir is intelligently plotted with an array of memorably seedy characters. Coming from Korea, the wild tale of murder and deceit has more twists and turns than a good Elmore Leonard novel.

A designer bag loaded with cash lies at the heart of its intricate plot. Several people become ensnared in the bag’s fate as criminals hunt for the missing fortune. A customs agent (Jung Woo-Sung) badly in debt to gangsters, a scheming madam (Jeon Do-Yeon) looking out for herself, a lowly hotel gym clerk (Bae Seong-Woo), and a nightclub hostess (Shin Hyun-Been) stuck in a rotten relationship all play integral roles as the sprawling narrative stunningly converges.

Think a tougher, smarter version of Get Shorty

Director Kim Yong-Hoon makes a powerful debut with this slick and satisfying thriller. The fractured narrative of the first act beautifully pulls together as each character’s fate slowly becomes tied in unexpected and novel twists. It’s a thrill-ride told with Hollywood craftsmanship and a pinch of storytelling magic borrowed from Tarantino and others. Think a tougher, smarter version of Get Shorty¬†without Travolta hamming it up.

There’s nothing to dislike about Beasts Clawing at Straws or its well-mannered showmanship. This is simply well-made cinema with no real flaws. The wild criminal thriller is gripping filmmaking done with panache.

Each character is introduced with a unique wit and humanity, then thrown together in completely unexpected developments. Despite their often immoral actions, the protagonists are immensely likable. That’s a credit to the superb ensemble cast and smooth writing.

The taut Korean thriller is modern noir done correctly, sure to become an underground favorite on home video.

Video

Movies hailing from South Korea tend to have top-notch production values and usually perform well in the picture quality department. That includes gritty thrillers. Beasts Clawing at Straws has excellent definition with crisp textures and strong levels of detail. Brought to North America by Artsploitation Films, the Blu-ray’s 2.39:1 presentation exudes sharp video and clarity.

The main feature runs an unrated and uncut 108 minutes. Artsploitation Films encodes the movie in AVC on a BD-25 with flawless transparency and compression work. It’s an unblemished transfer of a new production with few PQ issues. A consistent contrast and solid black levels ensure the seedy settings are brought out in maximum detail.

There’s some effort by cinematographer Kim Tae-sung to give each character their own distinctive color palette, reflecting their different backgrounds.

Audio

Mostly driven by dialogue, the criminal thriller’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA Korean audio features mild immersion and fairly conservative sound design by noir standards. There are a couple of neat sonic surprises found in the rear channels but most action happens up front.

It’s a discrete mix with some channel separation. Bass is on the lighter side for a criminal thriller. There’s a nice balance between louder elements and the crisply-delivered Korean dialogue, always remaining clean and intelligible.

Optional English subtitles play in a fairly unique light purple font, laying outside the widescreen presentation. Secondary audio options include 5.1 and 2.0 Korean Dolby Digital.

Extras

The South Korean movie receives no bonus features other than a trailer.

Beasts Clawing at Straws Trailer (01:11 in HD)

Benjamin Trailer (02:13 in HD)

Happy Times Trailer (01:49 in HD)

The Prince Trailer (01:46 in HD)

Dead Dicks Trailer (01:23 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Beasts Clawing at Straws
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

An intricate criminal thriller from Korea crafted with an intelligent script and memorable cast of characters.

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