By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Newly anointed King Sejo (Hee-soon Park) is quite the pickle in Jesters: The Game Changers. He’s dethroned the former prince, his nephew Danjong, in his rise to power and in order to sully a good reputation, he recruits Deok-ho (Jin-woong Cho) and his gang of talented con artists (Jesters, in this translation) to spotlight all the good he can do.
They use strangely modern techniques to make their special effects. Honestly, it’s these moments which make this film shine. Viewers may scratch their heads at how 15th century Korea has access to electric lights but I figure what they used are smoke and mirrors inside different types of containers to make their illusions. With creative thinking, anything is possible, including projecting Buddha on a cliff side or seeing Deok-ho on an ancient treadmill.
The talents include Hong-chil (Ko Chang Seok), who can make props; Geun-deok (Kim Seul Gi), a genius at sound effects; Jin-sang (Yoon Park) an artist who creates photo realistic images and Pal-pung (Kim Min Seok), a meister with mise en scene. Whatever their client needs, they can convincingly fake!
This movie is entertaining enough to have me chuckling. The shift in tone from comic in act one to dramatic and political in the later parts is quite the turn, making writer/director Joo-Ho Kim’s work a tad off. It really needs to be one than a mix to keep the interest alive.
Ultimately, the story is about The Six Matryred Ministers whom Sejo wants forgotten. He thought he had their trust. When he discovers them plotting to restore Danjong to the throne, he orders their death. It’s their role in how Korean history played out which shows why they must not be forgotten and that’s when I became fully invested in watching. No prior knowledge is needed to understand this film.
There’s a few moments where Sejo reveals himself as an able-minded person rather than another despot. As for why he usurped his nephew’s throne, the exposition is minimal to explain why he considers himself a better ruler. I’m not entirely convinced through this movie. Anyone wanting to know more about this tumultuous time in Korean history is better off looking up in a textbook on what is fact from fiction.
4 Stars out of 5