Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The War of Flower / Tazza; High Rollers: Review

cast00tk6 The War of Flower (Hwatoo) is the story of two best friends and the depths each one descends through the art of being a tazza (sort of a finely honed card shark, who cheats for the beauty of the cheat. Other’s are just cheaters).

Playing the game “Go/Stop” (or Hwatoo) Goni, is passionate, could easily become addicted to the game – he’s the “Go” guy. The other friend, Young Min, is more calculating and has a better instinct for the cards. He knows when it’s time to quit. He’s the “Stop” guy.

Ponder Angst – 20. There was not a single moment in the series that I sat there and thought, “Oh for Pete’s sake, get on with it already!” This series was so fast paced and smart – we had moments of the ponder, but it was pointed, we got to see how a cheat was done, we got the Aha! moments and I enjoyed it. I may have to go back and check the ponder meter; I don’t know if any other series got all 20 points.

Love “ – “ Angles – It’s another 20. Goni loves NanSook. NanSook loves Goni. Young Min loves NanSook. Madam Jung loves Young Min. It was pretty clean as the angles go.

Sizzle – 25. The only place that Tazza would have lost sizzle points was in the relationship between Goni and NanSook. Romantically, these two never got out of high school (except at the end, you figure they’re hooking up). The kisses were modest and chaste, but I wanted a little more desperation. The sizzle we get comes from the separate character performances, the cheats and stings, the writing and the atmosphere of series. And woooof - Jang Hyuk and Kim Min Joon. Both hot with a smoldering sexiness that oozed off the screen.

Physical Intimacy – 5 – we had those chaste kisses I spoke of, and a little bit of couch time with Young Min and Madam Jung. I'm not looking for full frontal or anything – but the connect could have added another layer of punch to an already great series.

Tragic Heart wrenching Disease and/or Character Death from Same – 20 – We got a few murders and one Grandma death from natural causes that catapults our protagonists down this path of greed and twisted desires. It is to be expected in the life of the high roller. We did get sacrificial main character death which upped the pointage here. The heart wrenching part was watching Goni’s face as he deals with all of the pain. Jang Hyuk is exquisite.

Going to the Beach – 0 – there was no beach trip in Tazza. It’s ok. I loved the series without it.

I’ve already mentioned the really superb performances here with Kim Min Joon and Jang Hyuk; JH with his beautifully expressive face, KMJ with his wonderful Shakespearean neuroses. But the supporting cast was all top notch too. Madam Jung, Aghui, Aghui’s toady, Goni’s prison friends, his mentor Pyung Kyung Jang, the little guy I called Moe Howard since he looked like Moe from the three stooges. As with other k-dramas I’ve watched, the really good ones invest me in the characters – all of them, good and bad. Tazza, in only 21 episodes, did this for me beautifully.

I liked the ending and thought it was appropriate. Early on, Goni’s uncle (a tazza as well) could read him and he knew instinctively that Goni was a guy that wouldn't be able to stop, indeed, Aghui could read that too which is why he chooses Young Min to be his apprentice. That, and the fact that Young Min shows he can be ruthless if he has to. Goni shrunk at conning a palsied man. Young Min has no problem.

Eventually Goni breaks that ugly cycle of “revenge breeds revenge, cheats breed cheats”. Taunted throughout the series that he’ll never be able to give up the exciting and lucrative lifestyle, Goni understands better than anyone the excitement and the tingling that gambling offers. But in the end he says to a woman who is concerned with her son’s card playing; "If he can stop when he should stop, then nothing bad will ever happen to him." He has found peace and contentment.

Annoying tics? Throughout the whole series, Goni’s woman NanSook was not a favorite of some viewers. She didn't bother me. I was pretty apathetic really. That was until the last 10 minutes of the finale when she kept nagging at Goni not to shoot Aghui. Nag nag nag "don't do it Goni!" nag nag nag "Goni!" nag nag "Goni" NaGoniNaGoniNaGoni. I just wanted him to shoot her and shut her up and then shoot Aghui. That last ten minutes totally ruined the character for me and now I hate her. If I watch this again, I'm going to hate her through the whole thing and pretend he hooks up with someone at the fish market in the end.

So Tazza scores 90 out of 100 on the E-scale. This series should have gotten more kudos than it did. Highly recommended.


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