Kim Yong-hoon’s debut feature Beasts Clawing at Straws is a darkly comic thriller that is befitting of post-Parasite South Korean cinema. 

This smart neo-noir is a slow burner that catalogues the unfortunate events that befall a down on his luck man who stumbles upon a bag of money, Joong-man (Bae Sung-Woo) is as complete in his desperation in life as he is oblivious to the encounters that will follow. Joong-man is not alone in his unfortunate circumstances, Mi-ran (Shin Hyun-bin) an escort trapped in an abusive marriage, and Tae-young (Jung Woo-sung), a customs officer in debt to local gangster Mr. Park (Jung Man-sik).

Thanks to the strong direction in his debut by Yong-hoon, Jung Woo-Sung, Bae, Sung-Woo, and Jeon Do-Yeon all bring strong performances, allowing these interweaving narratives to bind together to great satisfaction. Aided by the fluidity of the more experienced Kim Tae-sung’s cinematography, the film moves with great pace and visual flair with the six non-linear chapters culminating into a chaotic and cathartic finale.

The combination of crude violence and a twisted comedic portrayal of greed will draw deserved comparisons with the early films of Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers.

Yong-hoon offers a refreshing update on a cliched genre with this examination of absurdity, stupidity, and criminality. Featuring an irreverent score and striking cinematography that elevates the brilliant performances, the film is expertly paced for a rewarding experience. Beasts Clawing at Straws is an accomplished debut that warrants attention and acclaim.  



CAST: Jung Woo-sung, Jeon Do-yeon, Youn Yuh-jung, Bae Seong-woo, Shin Hyun-bin, Jung Man-sik, Jin Kyung, Jung Ga-ram, Park Ji-hwan

DIRECTOR: Kim Yong-hoon

WRITER: Kim Yong-hoon (Based on Keisuke Sone’s novel Beasts Clawing at Straws)

SYNOPSIS: A down on his luck man caring for his sick mother stumbles upon a bag of money in a locker room, inadvertently the money encounters an escort trapped in an abusive marriage and a customs officer is in trouble with a local mobster.