Unable to complete his most recent action film for lack of a decent co-star, plagued by his reputation as a brawler and previous incidents with headliners, a Korean action movie star turns to a gangster as a replacement, under the gangster’s condition that all the fight scenes they are to shoot be real fights.
Co-written and produced by critically acclaimed Korean director Kim Ki-Duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and… Spring) and directed by up-and-comer Hun Jang, Rough Cut uses a genius high-concept pitch—an actor would-be gangster and a gangster would-be actor pair up to film an action movie with real fight scenes—and constructs a dual history of characters, mirror images of one another, distorted through time, in a film within a film. Rough Cut could be said to explore the innumerable avenues that we all take and how they define us as persons, always looking back at the choices made, always wondering if our dreams were ever a possibility. We get the feeling—and this point is accentuated by the stylized conclusion; an all-out brawl scene in disgustingly viscous, non-descriptive mud where the two principal characters, covered in the same filth, are soon indistinguishable from one another—that these two characters are products of their circumstance, the gangster looking back on his failed dreams of acting, the actor convinced he would make a dangerous and ruthless gangster. In the end, tragic as it always is, the hero wins, the villain gets punishes but, and this is the movie’s genius, we identify more with the villain than the hero, ensuring that Rough Cut looks familiar but feels like a different kind of monster, possessing the body of a popular film but the soul of an art-house film.