Im Sang-soo’s The Taste Of Money wants to be a commentary on big business and social decadence in South Korea. It’s a visually impressive piece, but much too shallow considering the corrupt word and weighty themes it tries to explore.
The film follows an obnoxiously rich family who have reached the top through bribery and corruption. We see them through the eyes of Joo Young-jak (Kim Kang-woo), a young employee who gets caught up in the family drama when the patriarch (Kim Hyo-jin) decides to run-off with the Filipino maid just as the family firm is being investigated for fraud.
The Taste Of Money is filled with lust, greed, sex, corruption and tragedy – but it’s amazing how boring it all is. I get the impression that Im Sang-soo felt he was making a sprawling Shakespearian family drama, with touches of The Godfather mixed with the visual sheen of a Michael Mann film. However, it comes across more like an x-rated episode of Dallas than King Lear. We’re supposed to see that greed doesn’t bring happiness, but we actually learn it brings beautiful interior design.
To give Sang-soo his credit, the film looks good but it suffers from a serious case of style over substance. He doesn’t appear to realise that even a clinical film must have a captivating story. At times it feels as if we are watching a moving interpretation of a glossy magazine shoot. The film could do with losing 20 or 30 minutes, but even then there wouldn’t be enough spark to move things along – the story just isn’t there.
We get to watch the implosion of the family through Joo Young-jak’s eyes, but he’s a passive witness to everything, coming across as weak-willed. He’s the least interesting character we meet, but we spend the most screen time with him. The only instance he appears to show some backbone is anticlimactic and he’s sent off with his tail between his legs (almost literally). If Sang-soo wants to know how to have an interesting voyeur into the decadent life of the rich then he should read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
The Taste Of Money has all the elements to make a classy drama but the film stumbles, delivering a film that bores rather than entertains or educates.
You get a slick trailer that’s much more exciting than the 1 hour 50 minute film.