After the success of recent Korean films like "Tazza," which centered around intricately executed money scams, there was little doubt that one about working the stock market would soon follow.
"The Scam," the debut film from director Lee Ho-jae about an unemployed slacker trying to plunder 600 billion won from the stock market, was announced for a nationwide Feb. 12 release at a press conference yesterday at the Sofitel Ambassador in Seoul. The Showbox release features Hallyu star Park Yong-ha, plus Kim Min-jeong, Park Hee-soon and former musical actor Kim Mu-yeol, as the team cooking up the scheme.
Kim Min-jeong, better known for playing archetypal feminine heroines, here plays an ice-cold business woman. Kim Moo-yeol, known for playing criminals on television and the silver screen, revisits this role, this time playing a reformed gangster trying to run a legitimate savings and loan business. Rounding out the four is Kim Mu-yeol, who plays the stock broker who is the brains behind the operation.
If "Tazza" was modeled after George Roy Hill`s "The Sting" and David Mamet`s "The Spanish Prisoner," "The Scam," seems to be the Korean version of "Wall Street" and "Boiler Room."
Before filming, Lee spent two years interviewing sources to give his film authenticity.
"During the research process, I interviewed people who were or had been involved in the business of trading both legally and illegally during the course of two years," he said. "But funnily enough, I found that it wasn`t their stories that I found myself getting engrossed in, but it was their speech patterns and their mannerisms that became the most valuable tools during my research.
"I also found myself wetting my beak a bit, dabbling in the stock market during that time, and actually ended up losing about 94 percent of the little amount I had invested," he added.
"It was, to say the least, a sobering experience."
Lee hopes movie-goers feeling the pinch of the global financial crisis will come out of the theaters feeling hopeful that the everyman can come out on top.
But he also expressed concern that some who watch it will feel the crisis even more, knowing that what goes on in the movie never happens in the real world.
Film headliner Park Yong-ha espoused a safe money management mentality during the economic strain.
"I go the traditional simpleton`s way of money management -- I just save," Park said.
"My mantra is safety first, profit later when it comes to handling my personal finances and I don`t think I`ll ever risk playing the stock market unless I know for sure what the heck I`m doing."
Kim Moo-yeol expressed a similar stance.
"I stay far away from any of the stuff that goes on in the movie because playing the market is a highly stressful and terrifying act of gambling that I would never partake in," he said.
The character actor had some reservations about playing yet another gangster role.
"I was reluctant at first and told the director that one of the most abused and used caricatures in Korean cinema is the role of the gangster," he said.
"But in the script, my character was an in-between guy sort of stuck in limbo between the underworld and the legit world, and that complexity drew me to the character."
Clean-cut former musical star Kim Moo-yeol stated his enthusiasm for the film`s production process.
"This was my first film and while it was indeed intimidating, as it was a significant role, I was also at ease the entire time. I was blessed that I could work with such talented and gracious folks who I got along great with and had a blast, almost to the point where I felt guilty I was having so much fun," he said.
"It just didn`t seem like work to me. The only time I was having a bad day related to this project was actually last night, when I couldn`t sleep since it was the night before today`s press conference."
Kim Min-jeong offered a very frank view of playing film`s only female lead.
"I was glad I was the sole female lead because that meant all of the attention was going to be aimed at me so I was happy about that," she said, garnering a few chuckles.
"I thought I would be intimidated working with so many talented people, but my co-star Hee-soon, who`s considered a veteran in the business was so easy going and such a prankster on the set that I never felt uncomfortable."
Before ending the press conference, the director and his cast reassured those concerned that a film about the stock market could only be appreciated by those in the know. They stressed that the film was for entertainment purposes and that they believe everyone can enjoy it.
By Song Woong-ki