Hidden card indeed! Tazza: The Hidden Card is filled with so many twists and turns in the plot that you are quite literally kept at the edge of your seat for the entire film- absorbed and equally terrified about what’s going to happen next. Just like the high stakes gambling games they play.
Dae-gil (T.O.P) is a young charismatic man who demonstrates a rather natural knack for gambling, or more accurately- hustling. He can switch cards and trick his opponents so cleverly that he soon finds himself climbing the dirty ladder of the gambling world. Along the way he meets Mi-Na (Shin Se-Kyung) and it’s quite literally love at first sight- and despite Mi-Na’s apparent disinterest, their first meeting is exceptionally cute. Dae-gil promises he will return for her when he is “someone”, but unfortunately just like in gambling- chance is not always kind.
Dae-gil is swindled, betrayed and has his kidney taken as debt (gross). What has started as lighthearted fun has begun to turn extremely dark. Now on the run he meets a great hustler, who teaches him more tricks of their trade. Dae-gil plays game after game slowly trying to make his way back to Mi-Na, but he soon finds out life has been equally unkind to her. This is a gloomy world where game partners constantly change and backstab each other, and the film doesn’t hold back on the brutality of it all.
There is some fantastic casting at work here, as you really become extremely swept up in the characters’ world. Kwak Do-Won is absolutely terrifying as the ruthless Jang. Perhaps it’s the predator glasses but you feel yourself recoiling every time he’s on screen. The two leading ladies Shin Se-Kyung and Lee Ha-Nui are both perfectly able to capture the desperation of women in compromised positions- desperate and unflinchingly capable of doing what they can to not sink. The big one here though is of course T.O.P, and he truly does deliver here. Compared to previous roles Dae-Gil offers T.O.P the opportunity to show a much vaster range of emotions, and what he manages to offer in return is a character that is constantly able to regroup with the hands he is dealt and play the hard game- one that you really want him to win. And let’s not forget this is the film of the big T.O.P body reveal, which is well worth the wait.
“Life is full of changes” so opens Dae-gil, and this film is exactly that. The pacing and constant shifts of character relationships are thrilling and the story drags you right in. Your move.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 147 minutes (w/English Subtitles)
Tazza: The Hidden Card originally screened at KOFFIA 2015, from where this review was originally posted.