Movie Review: Rough Play (2013)

rough playI had already enjoyed Rough Cut where Kang Ji Hwan and So Ji Sub shone in their lethal bromance. As for Rough Play, it felt essential watching it since the highly acclaimed director/screenwriter/producer Kim Ki Duk himself entrusted the leading role to Lee Joon, a fairly new actor at that time. It’s not that many years have passed since Rough Play, Lee Joon is still young in the field of acting. However, we’ve already witnessed his multifaceted acting capabilities in full grandeur throughout Gap Dong as Ryu Tae Oh and Mr. Back as Choi Dae Han and he’s currently partaking in Heard It Through the Grapevine‘s golden yet gloomy world as Han In Sang. I haven’t invested in his supporting roles or guest appearances prior to Rough Play yet, but having watched this movie i can see why Lee Joon’s acting opportunities after Rough Play broadened and along with them his acting horizons; apparently.


bscap0555Oh Young (Lee Joon) is a young actor full of intensity and pathos diving inside his roles as if they were a part of reality itself. His difficult and bold yet passionate character was often putting him into trouble. He used to perform in various plays presented at a small theater, but he also had his chances in appearing in movies as a minor supporting role. One day manager Kim Jang Ho (Seo Bum Suk) notices Oh Young’s talent and sees through his potential to become a leading figure in the filming industry. Along with Oh Young’s rise it will be Jang Ho’s chance to rise anew, but Oh Young’s integrity of character sets the basis and prevents himself from moving in the shadows where actors and actresses are being born and vanish in a blink of an eye.


bscap0581His secondary supporting role transforms into a secondary leading character where he plays alongside the renowned actor Kang Bin (Yang Dong Geun) and soon enough his star starts to shine. One movie after the other his career is skyrocketing and along with it Oh Young’s integrity and boldness surrender as he gradually finds himself inside a cesspool of corruption where morals don’t matter anymore. Fame and money can ruin one’s conscience and Oh Young couldn’t avoid partaking in that dreadful circus where souls wander in the murk. You shine as long as you are needed and the more you slip the more you start draining away into obscurity without taking into consideration the warning signs, whether they are people you’ve met before and witnessed their decline or current events that try to pull you backwards.


bscap0610Rough Play is a darkening journey into the vicious world of filming industry’s most shady aspects. Underneath one’s stardom status fields of stench may blossom and the more the flashes shine alight at your presence the more depraved you may get and then the journey could possibly reach the point of no return. Oh Young is fragile and a broken figure and the more he dwells in the vast waters of fame the more he declines on an ongoing journey d(r)ownwards. It’s not only about what you accomplish, it’s also about how you preserve your present and how your insight stares at the future.

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bscap0590Oh Young’s sudden fame overshadowed his horizon and held him captive at the present with the root leading backwards. As time passes by he becomes a shadow of himself and people around him don’t recognize him anymore as he loses himself in lust, fame, arrogance and alcohol hallucinating in the fake contours of stardom status that is no other than one’s most sickening essence. His lifestyle embraces the night and along with it its darkest aspects as people moving in the background interfere severely with his dreams which are being pushed away by his own blinded self. Whenever he’s alone solitude seems to be devouring him as he’s unable to maintain the fast forward life he’s leading.

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bscap0536The cinematography is usually evoking a darkening aesthetic and paces perfectly well with the movie’s overall ambiance and Oh Young’s psyche, but it doesn’t rely on the dark side all the time and visualizes various aspects of his daily life in a representative way. Scenario-wise i enjoyed Rough Play for the most part of it since it was delivering all the necessary weight upon the main figure without neglecting the secondary characters that were playing their own part in Oh Young’s progress and the process of the storyline. I couldn’t always pace with the artsy back and forth leaps throughout the story, but in the end you get the whole picture as the movie reaches completion and suddenly everything starts making perfect sense.

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bscap0676Lee Joon is one of the most representative young actors and he doesn’t rely on his good looks to keep glowing and progressing. It’s his acting and the fact that his face is like play dough, he forms it in any way he wants to according to his role and always manages to breathe life into each and every figure that manages to cross his acting path. He’s presenting a wide variety of emotions from utter lunacy to immense bliss or fierce internal struggle and from the emotionless grey to a colorful explosion of pretty much everything. In a way Lee Joon resembles Oh Young, they share the same passion for acting and both of them pour their souls into their roles; with one vast difference. Lee Joon wasn’t distorted by his rising fame and the sickening self he portrays always remains within the boundaries of the characters he depicts (Oh Young, Ryu Tae Oh). On the contrary, Oh Young’s reality was always interfering with his acting and when his acting rose to immense heights it became his reality and he got devoured by the vortex he steadily forged on his own through reality’s absence.

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bscap0642Rough Play is what the title stands for, it’s raw and sets sail on the dark side of life when the flashes are on but also when the crowds are gone without setting aside the intermediate steps that were responsible for everything that blossomed or withered. Sometimes you need to talk to a mannequin in order to find your way back home for home is where the heart should be. A mannequin is no other than yourself and works as a mirror without reflection. Its faceless expression portrays the stagnant waters that were never meant to be still, but were shaken violently instead of flowing with bliss; “i want to go back.”

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“It was desire, not love.”

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Kwon Sang Seung

Kwon Sang Seung

elles viennent
autres et pareilles
avec chacune c'est autre et c'est pareille
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est autre
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est pareille
-Samuel Beckett-

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  1. May 3, 2015 at 7:53 pm — Reply

    … Does he die? For the sake of not spoiling the fun for anyone else reading this, you can just answer on Twitter “yes” or “no” and we’ll both no what it means xD

    Anyway, I think Lee Joon is a prime example of actor turned idol turned actor going right. I’m not entirely sold on him as an actor. Like, I do see that he’s good, but so far, his acting has yet to give me “the feels”, so… And I find it particularly weird because he did play intense roles, I just can’t seem to find the key to step into the picture he creates… Oh well, Lee Joon can live without me being a total fan of his acting xD.

    • May 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm — Reply

      Now you tempt me to answer here to find out whether curiosity killed the cat or not XD
      Yup, he’s not one of these flower boys/girls we were talking about some time ago that should be working for a florist since they only have a pretty face and nothing else. I met him for the first time in Mr. Back and his role there had all the feels necessary to be like WTF, who’s that dude and how does he play really well? lol Although Mr. Back received a slight praise, i still consider it underrated since it was mainly referring to more mature audiences and the oppa-loving kyaa-girls didn’t bother seeing through its lines, instead they rushed watching Pinocchio for apparent reasons. But ye, totally agree, we can’t like actors/actresses in the same level, it wouldn’t be so fun if everyone had the same opinion about everything XD I’ll keep that you still consider him a good actor with potential while still searching for the role that will make you see the whole picture 😀

      PS. Nope, he doesn’t, but sometimes physical death isn’t the only one ;D

  2. May 3, 2015 at 8:32 pm — Reply

    For those who like movies with smoothly flowing story this movie will be confusing. A bit hard to digest and even to me who already expected to face some confusion (aka Kim Kiduk’s style) it feels choppy. If it wasn’t for Lee Joon I might never have watched this movie.
    The message is very strong and deep.. It’s not quite entertaining but it is amusing.

    I find you have a very objective take on Lee Joon’s acting perhaps because you didn’t know him until recently.

    Thanks for the good review!

    • May 3, 2015 at 8:43 pm — Reply

      Totally agree, i was confused as well at some points, but in the end it didn’t leave you wondering what the eff just happened 😀 KKD’s style indeed, have seen many of his movies, but this one i’m not sure whether i would had watched it or not if i didn’t want to get another glimpse of Lee Joon’s talent. Thanks a lot for your words and sharing your thoughts! 🙂

      • May 4, 2015 at 12:24 pm — Reply

        Yeah.. what I mean by “perhaps because you didn’t know him until recently” is that your view is not biased either towards or against him, being former singer or idol or variety-show icon, which is very difficult for people who had seen him in non-acting gigs. In my case I would always look for his delicate body language, or in action scenes like in Iris, because I knew he’s good in action scenes, I’d be looking for traces from Ninja Assassin fighting moves.. etc.

        And some people wouldn’t like it if they found the trace of his idol/dance/singer/variety persona(s) in his acting. The fact that he is so versatile doesn’t always give him the advantage. It must be really hard for him.

        • May 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm — Reply

          I didn’t conceive your thoughts as something negative, on the contrary 😀 But your further thoughts were way more insightful on that direction! I am eager to find out about his action scene choreography and Iris 2 is within my plans in the future, but also because Lee Da Hae plays there and she’s pure love >.> 😀 I haven’t heard or read the best of opinions when it comes to Iris 2 or Iris in general, but i still intend to give it a shot out of curiosity some time.
          Nah, i don’t care about idol aspects etc since he has proven his acting worth. In addition, all of these characteristics you’ve referred to can only be a big plus, at least to my eyes since they offer a wide variety, but i can imagine what some people might be thinking hence it’s not always an advantage (but for me it is). He’s a hardworking fella and he deserves much praise!

  3. hariaharia
    May 3, 2015 at 10:08 pm — Reply

    This Rough Play, indeed! What an impeccable and yet so touchy review! That film has turned me into one of Lee Joon’s most devoted fans…he is on my top-5 list of young gifted actors from whom I expect practically everything in the near future! Well, I’m overjoyed to not being the only one here, sir. Thankfully Master Kim Ki Duk who’s an artistic genious recognized instantly his oozing talent and introduced him to us. I could go on forever on this movie and this actor who grabbed me when I least expected it…his intense look, the theatrical monologue in front of the mannequin, his obsession on the outcasted actress,his absolute loneliness inside an expensive flat, his lost innocence, the sacrifice of any friend and every single human emotion. I really thank you, Kwon Sang Seung-ssi for reminding me the breakthrough of this amazing actor!

    • May 3, 2015 at 10:52 pm — Reply

      Yuei yuei, thanks a lot for your words hariaharia-ssi! 😀 Same here, i expect practically everything in the near future and why not, in 20years for example he will probably be one of those cult ahjussis playing mafia-dudes etc! I really do hope he will be a part of Reply 1988 since i’m already an immense fan of both Reply 1994 especially and Reply 1997 in advance. We’re on the same Lee Joon commando faction 2xharia-ssi! This movie had so many things going on and so many blurry or dark emotions and every single aspect you referred to is totally spot on! You’re very welcome and i’m deeply thankful as well!! 🙂

    • May 4, 2015 at 3:17 am — Reply

      Yeah the mannequin monologues.. I forgot to mention them. Those scenes gave me goosebumps!

  4. D_Angel7
    May 7, 2015 at 11:10 pm — Reply

    I have been meaning to watch this movie for some time now. I really liked Lee Joon in ‘Gap Dong’, he was brilliant as a psychopath and I really admired that he challenged himself with the role.
    The movie seems really dark, twisted and gloomy.. lately I am enjoying such realistic settings with strong and deep messages. Thanks for sharing 😉

    • May 7, 2015 at 11:19 pm — Reply

      And it’s not that lengthy as far as i recall, around 90 minutes compares to the at least 120 minutes of many Asian films! Yep, he was truly exceptional in Gap Dong (“my god, my hero” XD ), a real psychopath!
      Lately i’m diving in the darker side of life as well when it comes to movies as a break from dramas, one movie i found unexpectedly great was Sky and Ocean with Jang Na Ra! Thanks for your words and for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  5. May 9, 2015 at 5:31 am — Reply

    Bless Kim Ki duk for giving him chance in this project. He met Joon in variety show and idek what made him seen. I guess it’s just a destiny. hehe And bless Joon himself to fight for it though his company against him so hard. He just didn’t give a shit to break all the idol’s rules (no sex, smoking, naked XD) and took 1 night to accept the role.

    tbh I’m so thrill about his desire but i knew he has so many passion in acting so i deeply feel good for him. This is KKD who is a producer, no one could deny, right? I also give a credit to the director who trust in Joon as well. To direct a rookie must be a tough work. The director was surprised when KKD cast idol, esp a no-name rookie, and later he joke and tease Joon ‘you might not get any CFs after the movie released’ but Joon jokingly said to him “as if i had CF before, Director-nim lol”

    About a movie, some parts I don’t get it but i got the whole message from the movie. that’s rough play! Oh young is my love-hate character (i love him more than RTO from Gapdong, seriously) Life is shit but you made it be, you deserve it from your behavior 😛

    Sorry, i’m not good in english but i want to share my thought here. (better than in twitter) I wish Joon won’t disappoint KKD-nim, The Director-nim, the viewers by his first lead in big-screen. For his fan, I’m happy that he can be a part of this movie. I want him got a chance to work with other brilliant k-directors. His acting fits a movie. Pls Park Chan Wook-nim, send him script! XD

    • May 9, 2015 at 11:51 pm — Reply

      I wasn’t even aware of all this background story! Thanks a lot for sharing it pheliachingu!! It was quite insightful, hilarious and courageous at the same time! He fell willingly in deep waters all of a sudden against all odds and difficulties! XD
      I knew you had a Tae Oh obsession, but i wasn’t aware that Oh Young is a more love-hate persona to your eyes 😀 Indeed, if life is shit, Oh Young made it shittier for him without paying attention to the signals, after a moment and on the ongoing downfall was inevitable :/
      Nah, no need to be sorry, what’s important is that you’re sharing your thoughts to a wider extent than in twitter and that’s important to me! And as i said, i am deeply thankful for sharing the background of the movie before Lee Joon accepted the role and after he accepted it! His acting definitely fits a movie and i’m really looking forward to his next attempt, after all he has the experience of two great dramas with the third one steadily reaching the end! I’m pretty sure he will shine even more in his next movie! Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts chingu!! 🙂

  6. May 9, 2015 at 6:43 am — Reply

    I’ve been meaning to see this movie even before it released and I didn’t know who Lee Joon was at that time, and it slipped my mind till I saw this review. And by then I was already watching Heard it through the grapevine so I was anticipating it even more after watching Lee Joon in action.

    Negatives – A bit choppy, could have been slower, extras could have been better

    Pros – Lee Joon is amazing, it’s darker than I imagined and I love it

    I did find myself cringing and itching to pause when Lee Joon’s downfall began. I hated him but felt sorry for him.
    Lee Joon is not super good, but he comes pretty close to it and he might just displace the number one on my bias list.
    So I shall be going to check out Gap Dong.

    Thank you for your review ^^

    • May 9, 2015 at 11:45 pm — Reply

      I met Lee Joon on Mr. Back, didn’t know who he was, then started Heard It Through the Grapevine and while waiting for subs for an ep i thought, why not start Gap Dong? And i finished it in 5 days 😀 One could say i’m on an ongoing Lee Joon ride lol It’s definitely a bit choppy, had it been two hours it could have flown in a better tone, but still liked it, especially after some parts started making sense in the end. Totally agree, Oh Young is a character you can easily hate after a moment and on when the downfall is relentless, but you can’t help it but feel sorry for him at the same time. Who’s your bias who’s in a dangerous position of being dethroned by Lee Joon? 😀 I think you will me amazed by Lee Joon’s acting in Gap Dong!! It will be a sickening yet highly intriguing ride. You’re very welcome and thanks a lot as well for your words and for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

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