Eye For Film >> Movies >> Money (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The thing about money that a lot of people don't get is that, like race, it's not real but society's belief in it means that it has a real world impact. If you're involved in trading, working with it in abstract form day in and day out, that impact can become increasingly difficult to perceive. Once money is only recognised as money on a screen, people begin to believe that their interactions with it have no real consequences at all, and then very bad things can happen.
Il-hyun Cho (Jun-yeol Ryu) isn't the kind of guy you'd immediately associate with very bad things. A wide-eyed kid who has managed to get a job with a leading stockbroker after briefly becoming famous for his ability to memorise codes, he's a bit of a boyscout, the first person to raise concerns about what look like dodgy practices in the office eve if he doesn't have the nerve to take it higher up. He's a hard worker but he's a little too self-conscious to make a good trader - he pauses to think too often - and soon he realises that the rest of his team is having to carry him, which, friendly as they are, leaves him feeling depressed. it's at this low point in his life that he gets an introduction to The Ticket (Ji-tae Yu), a legendary figure swathed in mystery who offers him the chance to make really big bucks if he will bend the rules just a little bit on one set of trades. It's not so much about personal financial gain, at this stage - Il-hyun wants to win back his honour and pay back those who have been good to him - but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
If you're wondering why a film like this would screen at the Fantasia International Film Festival, you may be overlooking old warnings about the root of all evil. There's no gratuitous horror element here, nothing supernatural - that's hardly necessary in the context of the evil that men do when they develop an obsession with seeing those abstracted numbers creep upwards in their bank accounts. "You've already made enough for several lifetimes," Il-hyun advises The Ticket at one point, only to have it explained to him that he's missed the point - what matters is the game.
Trying to stop this particular game is dedicated police detective J-cheol Han (Woo-jin Jo), who terrifies the still wet-behind-the-ears Il-hyun on their first encounter but gradually loses his authority as the young man discovers the pleasures of upscaling his restaurant choices, his apartment and his girlfriend. Nevertheless, Il-hyun is uneasy. His new girlfriend tries to reason with him, wary of getting into trouble herself, as does a young trader from a wealthy background who befriends him early on and - though it's never explicitly acknowledged - gives every indication of having fallen in love with him. The Ticket's schemes get increasingly risky. The higher the risk, the higher the payoff, right? Thinking too much about that is the doom of many a legitimate trader too. When people close to the schemes start to disappear, possibly murdered, Il-hrun gradually becomes aware of what the single-minded pursuit of money really means.
Although there are a couple of places in which it shoehorns the plot, this is for the most part a tightly written, fast-paced thriller with real bite. It's not a new story but given the amount of people who get into trouble with trading scams (which cost UK investors around £200M in 2018 alone), there would seem to be good reason to repeat it. Ryu is good in the central tole and there's some impressive cinematography, contrasting the crisp, clean interiors of the trading halls with gritty uncertainty of the real world. You'll find the film more accessible if you know a bit about trading to start with - it's not well explained - but money has a good deal to tempt any fan of thrillers.Reviewed on: 21 Jul 2019