Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the comedy/thriller THE EXCLUSIVE: BEAT THE DEVIL’S TATTOO by writer/director Roh Deok. Those looking for more information on this film should search IMDB under the title JOURNALIST but since I do not really find their plot description to be all that accurate, I am going to make up my own:
An unsuccessful journalist publishes a major scoop about an unknown serial killer before he checks his source. As he begins to look into it more, he comes to realize that his story was not true and begins to make up more lies to cover up his mistake. Soon, the cops start to breathe down his neck and the unknown serial killer begins contacting him.
When I read the various plot descriptions I thought this was going to be a suspense feature with a publicity seeking serial killer somewhat along the lines of 15 MINUTES (2001). It turns out, I was very wrong as this plays out as a satire of the media that just happens to involve a serial killer. The murdered himself is so downplayed that he only makes his appearance felt within the last thirty to forty five minutes of the film while the rest of the screen time is concerned with the cover up being orchestrated by the journalist.
The movie pulls a clever trick in making the journalist a likable character even while he tells lie after lie. Right off the bat, it is hard not to emphasize with this guy as we watch his career and life start to spiral out of his control. When he tells his first lie, it is unintentional as he truly believes this story he has uncovered will revive his job prospects. Once he finds out he was wrong, and is now in too deep to correct his mistake, we watch him comically struggle against the news network and police who are very interested in his story.
These caught in the middle moments are where our lead truly shines as his body language and facial expressions often reminded me of the silent film stars of old. The broad physicality of his performance also helps to keep his character likable as his wild motions perfectly portray a man comedically out of his depth. His performance during the more character driven moments works well too, but, since the nature of the piece is satire, it is hard not to focus upon the more humorous aspects.
Honestly, as a satire this feature works. There is a broad ridiculousness to the piece that never takes away from the biting concept of how media shapes our perceptions. They even tie the idea of belief to the main character’s overall story in a method that feels true to the role while at the same time servicing the overall ideas.
All in all, this was a fun satire of the twenty four hour news cycle that never jumped the rail into senseless parody. The lead actor did an impressive job of melding the comedy and the drama together so that the shifts never felt jarring. In the end, we get a film that explores some of the same territory as NETWORK (1976) or BROADCAST NEWS (1987), but through the eyes of Charlie Chaplin.
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