Tazza: The High Rollers was released in 2006 and was directed and written by Dong-hun Choi. This is Choi’s second feature production and is the story of two best friends and the depths each one descends through the art of being a tazza. The narrative almost manages to support a love story, though there’s no room in a gambler’s heart for true love. The energy of the narrative is matched by the plot’s daunting complexity, but the film journeys into surprising areas. The film boldly anatomises and exposes the underworld of gamblers which seems to epitomise our greedy capitalist society.
Tazza is good simple entertainment. It starts a little slow, but picks up steam in the second half and the ending doesn’t flounder, so it finishes strong. Eventually he reaches his goal but also runs into one Mr. Pyeong, who is reputedly the best gambler in South Korea. As Go Ni rises through the ranks, he eventually reaches the rarefied heights of the high rollers, where more money is bet than you can shake a stick at. It is also an environment of strongmen and women with its own violent rules. Whilst not a ground breaking movie by any stretch of the imagination, ‘Tazza’ is none the less a very enjoyable piece of filmmaking.
Kim Min Joon and Jang Hyuk give really good performances within the film. It is not the aseptic, blazing-guns style of violence so dear to the American psyche, but the intimate violence of the sharp blade more to the liking of orientals. The high rollers culture of illegal gambling filled with trickery and treachery but also with a retributive code of honor is a perfect breeding ground for that kind of violence. ome of the secondary characters also seemed a little redundant and unnecessary. I’m also surprised that we have not yet seen a sequel, but I am at least glad 5 Point Pictures is releasing this older film for a new generation to experience, nontheless.
So, in a classic sense, I appreciate the film and although gambling seems to be the central focus of the film which is a tired subject by now, it keeps things fresh. Also, the film wobbles back and forth in time without much reason for the back-and-forth. The use of flashbacks seemed to be disguising weaknesses in overall story structure, hiding the blunted dynamics. There are also some comedic elements thrown into the mix, which are largely situation and (semi-) slapstick based. I didn’t find these aspects as appealing as the rest of the movie. My only complaint would be that the comedic elements are a little lost in translation and the conclusion could have done with a little more explanation. Still, if gambling and blood fests are your cup of tea, then you should be satisfied.