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Opening Date
03 Jan 2019
114 mins
Korean with English & Chinese subtitles
Choi Kook-hee
Kim Hye-soo, Yoo Ah-in, Huh Joon-ho, Jo Woo-jin, Vincent Cassel
Si-hyun (KIM Hye-soo), the monetary policy manager at the Bank of Korea, predicts a massive national financial crisis and reports it to the Director. The Director doesn’t schedule an emergency summit until 10 days later but does it without notifying the public of the situation. Si-hyun urges for the crisis to be announced in order to warn people of the looming disaster, but her plea is ignored. The summit is held behind closed doors.
Jung-hak (YOO Ah-in), a financial consultant, notices Korea is suddenly hemorrhaging foreign funds, and he learns the reason is that international finance firms have ordered an all-out investment withdrawal from the country, which has caused the credit rating to plummet. He hands in his resignation and decides to play the odds on what he’s sure is a coming crisis. He secretly starts gathering investors willing to do the same.
Gap-su (HUH Joon-ho), a family man who runs a small tableware factory, has a big break and wins a contract with a department store. The fact that the price settlement terms equal to little more than a promissory note concerns him only briefly, and oblivious to the looming financial upheaval, Gap-su signs the contract.
The Managing Director of IMF (Vincent CASSEL) comes to Korea just one week before the country goes bust, and that is when those who try to prevent the crisis, those who seek to take advantage of it, and those only trying to protect their livelihood are caught in the wake of a national bankruptcy.
By Say Peng  19 Dec 2018
Default is a tense financial thriller worth checking out.
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Set during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Default, directed by Choi Kook-hee, feels familiar and fresh at the same time. It feels like some of the movies we’ve seen before on financial crises, namely, The Big Short. But set in a distinctly Asian context, and given that so few of such films have been made in Korea, if not Asia, Default does not feel rehashed; instead, it feels like a new step in Korean genre cinema.

Like The Big Short, Default tells a triptych of three stories, a big and small picture attempt to illustrate the terrible causes and terrifying effects of the financial crises. The main narrative follows Bank of Korea’s chief financial analyst Han Shi-hyeon (Kim Hye-soo), whose long-time predictions that the country will go bankrupt due to depleting foreign reserves and accumulating debts, as she tries to stave off the worst from happening - the country’s economy being taken over by the International Monetary Fund and the big Korean conglomerates.

The second story follows Yun Jeong-hak (Yoo Ah-in), a young investment banker who, upon realising that Korea would go bankrupt, quits his job to start his own fund management to take advantage of the impending crisis to make a windfall and change his life.

The third story goes micro and focuses on the negative effects that financial crises have on the everyman. Gab-su (Heo Joon-ho) is a middle-class business owner of a small tableware factory, who struggles with payment after his deal with a large department store falls through and the promissory note issued by the department store becomes void. This drives him to consider suicide, a fate, as shown in the film, that many male Korean breadwinners turn to as the economy tanks.

Default’s competent screenplay deftly handles the three concurrent stories, allowing audiences to grasp the macro-economics without being too didactic and also to understand that economic policies, which come hand in hand with politics, have real-world consequences that the powers-that-be are so cavalier about. It’s a big risk that the film’s producers have taken in making a film about what seems at first to be about arcane financial gobbledygook, but the film succeeds in being accessible while not dumbing things down.

Default is a tense financial thriller worth checking out.
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