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Crime drama to delve into Janus-faced ‘Money’

Finance is one of the most crucial elements of today’s capitalist society -- it can mean salvation for some and suffering for others. The upcoming film “Money” will look into this paradox.

“Money is a very simple and basic word that has a different meaning for everyone. ... Each person has a different philosophy about it, and their way of life is affected by how they perceive it,” said Park Noo-ri on her directorial debut. “(Money) is the main subject matter of the film, while simultaneously the topic and the main character.”

The film, starring Ryu Jun-yeol, Yoo Ji-tae and Jo Woo-jin, is about a budding stockbroker who is tempted to make big bucks by taking part in shady stock transactions.

Ryu -- already taking on a second starring role very early this year after “Hit-and-Run Unit” -- plays the young broker Jo Il-hyeon, who gets what he sees as the chance of a lifetime.

“Money” (Showbox)
“Money” (Showbox)

“(Jo is) a man who grew up in an ordinary household and lands a job. He has a dream of becoming rich,” the actor said before going on to discuss how his manner and facial expressions reflect the changes that Jo undergoes.

“As I shot the film, I came to realize the changes that people go through before and after getting money. The human tendency to succumb to (the temptations of money) can make a person so miserable,” he said.

“At one point, I wanted to reshoot some of the earlier scenes before Il-hyeon became rich. But upon seeing those scenes, I found that Il-hyeon’s face in later shots were very different from before. If a person’s face changes this much just by pretending to taste wealth, I figured that the change a person goes through when actually in that situation would be much greater.”

The director said she had cast Ryu because of the various looks that he’d displayed in his past works, from an innocent college student in “A Taxi Driver” to a mysterious low-level member of a drug ring in “Believer” to an online celebrity in “Socialphobia” -- a character his co-star Yoo described as a “total punk.”

This time, Yoo is the one playing the bad guy. But his character, “Beonhopyo,” which literally means queue ticket, is not really a straight-out “evil” person -- instead, he operates in a morally gray area.

“The point that I pored over was ‘Is Beonhopyo actually evil?’” Park said. “I wanted him to look attractive for having a clear logic and goal to his actions. And I wanted the audience to wonder if he was indeed actually the villain, and why he was the villain, until the very end.”

Yoo has played iconic villains before, arguably the most memorable being Lee Woo-jin in Park Chan-wook’s masterful 2003 “Oldboy.” Like Lee, Beonhopyo has a calm and well-mannered demeanor, but Yoo said he’d tried his best to prevent his character from looking like just another villain.

“When used right, money can be good. But when used wrong, it can devastate your life. I think my character is one that expresses that aspect (of money),” he said.

The antagonist, a government official named Han Ji-cheol from the agency in charge of the financial sector, is played by Jo. In several of his best-known appearances, he was the most infuriating figure on the screen, but this time he plays an ordinary person with a strong will and his heart in the right place.

“Each person in the film has a different perspective on money, and the way they clash plays into its appeal,” he said.

Park expressed hopes that her first feature film would give the audience something to think about.

“It’s a story of how an ordinary person undergoes change after being enslaved by money. Everyone wants to be rich but they can’t,” she said. “In an age where money seems to matter more than people, I wanted to ask through the story of an ordinary person: What would I do? What are we working so hard for?”

“Money” hits local theaters in March.

By Yoon Min-sik