Friday, October 30, 2020

'Beasts' -- now streaming at our Cinematheque -- do make an impression

A chef (left), port officer and mobster comprise three very key "Beasts."
If you'd like a little kimchee on your plate while watching the engrossing "Beasts Clawing at Straws," then feel free to pile it on. 

I mean, pickled cabbage might be a perfect spicy snack for this multicourse, subtitled meal of a little Tarantino here, some Coen Brothers in the middle, and perhaps even a bit of Bong Joon-ho on the side. (Just don't ask the film's featured chef, himself a kind of James Bond villain/henchman with some particularly exotic tastes, what might be cooking tonight.)

This very special South Korean concoction comes from first-time writer/director Kim Yong-hoon, as based on a Japanese novel by Keisuke Sone and, if you happen to recognize those names, you're either an Asian scholar or someone who spends way too much time on the Internet. Regardless, what you don't know literally won't hurt you here. Simply just sit back, pay attention, eat it all up, and thank me later.

The not-so-simple gist: Someone leaves a fashion bag with a boatload of cash in a gym locker. It's found by a struggling janitor with a kind, gentle wife and a mother who's demented (and, please, read into that word what you will). Enter a call girl constantly beaten by her scumbag boyfriend, a young client who's infatuated (meaning he'll do anything for her -- hint, hint), and a madam who looks and plays the part with perfection, including her shark tattoo (though it might remind you of a certain dragon).

A few others include a crooked passport official hounded by a goofy, greedy gangster and, if that all brings back some thoughts of the terrific 1989 thriller called "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover," we might as well throw that into this deliciously derivative stew, too.

"Beasts Clawing at Straws" is playing through at least Nov. 12 on the Cinematheque Virtual site at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Not rated by MPAA: But filled with various shades of blood, sex, skulduggery, and violence; 1:48; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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