Weak brother on one side, ambitious cousin on the other,
and one wise female (Yo Won) who sees right through them!
Actor Go Soo was totally intense in this revenge drama
However, all revenge plans in dramas carry unintended consequences, and the more Go Soo's character Tae Joo turns to the dark side the fewer qualms he has about destroying anyone in his way, male or female, business person or gangster. He is helped by his girlfriend and lover for years, a corrupt real estate broker named Sul Hee Yoon, played sensitively well by beautiful actress Jang Shin Young (Rebirth: Next), whose character I disliked in the beginning but who grew on me as time went on and it became obvious she really did love him, while he didn't truly harbor the same feelings for her, though he professed that he did.
However, no one really loves you if he'll set you up as the killer of a corrupt Congressman when it was really he himself who accidentally plunged the knife into the guy. "It was self defense!" he yells at her, "he was trying to assault you!", and trembling, she agrees to take the fall for him. At first. :)
Actress Jang Shin Young
did a great job in her role too
Actor Son Hyun Joo (My Rosy Life, Three Days) gives another stellar performance here in Empire of Gold as the cousin named Choi Min Jae, who is a strange mixture of good vs. evil. He can be tender and loving with certain people, like his dying wife, and then in the next scene be full of avarice, greed, lies and deceptions against family members, cut throat in business and in personal relationships, later marrying a woman he doesn't even love just to get a fresh supply of wealth when his shrivels up. He also was fascinating to watch because of how unscrupulous he was. I kept thinking to myself, "These people will never know peace, and compared to so many others in life they're far richer in bounties, they just think it's never enough!" (Their attitudes reminded me of that scene between Bogie and Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo, "Will it ever be enough, Rocco?" "No! No! Come to think of it, it will never be enough. I WANT MORE!")
Actor Son Hyun Joo is equally adept at
playing sympathetic and despicable
When the economy collapses, former adversaries find it beneficial to be temporarily aligned with one another to rely on their separate strengths and talents to climb the business world back to success again (even if it involves blackmail!), and one is a petty gangster / loan shark, and thug named Jo Pil Doo (Ryu Seung Soo from Winter Sonata, Thank You, and Lie To Me -- I'm always happy to see this actor again, I've always liked him).
This second outsider eventually joins with Tae Joo and Min Jae to try and bring Seo Yoon down from her lofty perch in the rival company and to beat her out on real estate deals by the Han River and the prime Gangnam district area of Seoul. Jo Pil Doo is another strange mixture: I kept waiting for him to explode. He seems to desire to put his violent gangster life behind him and earn money in a cleaner way, dons a suit, and does footwork for Tae Joo gathering private information on future real estate deals, but all the time I kept thinking to myself, "Once a gangster, always a gangster, how long will this last?". His professional relationship with Tae Joo was ironic, because when they first met Jo Pil Doo ordered his thugs to beat him unconscious!
Ryu Seung Soo in a complex performance as
a gangster thug turned business executive
The very ending surprised me and I liked it, but reading comments from other viewers online I could see that most people were angry with it. I couldn't help giggling at some of their comments; I don't think they thought things through enough, or paid enough attention to what Tae Joo was saying and what he was doing -- this reaction by many fans reminded me of people who were not swift enough to understand that the ending of That Winter, The Wind Blows was NOT tragic. I saw the end of Empire Of Gold in a completely different way: it was a gambling ending, very appropriate for Tae Joo, and he was leaving it up to God to decide his fate. I don't want to say anything more and give away an end spoiler, just trust me: it's an ending that requires you to use your BRAIN CELLS! :) Tae Joo was hedging his bets, to see if he would live. If he did, then he survived the hell of his own making and could start anew, and if he didn't then that was divine justice against him for his sins and he was okay with that.
Tae Joo's life reflected those people who get into situations too big for their britches, but they are so confident of themselves and their motives that they begin to justify entering the dark side, to use and hurt people and spit them out at will. When he first earned money in real estate he could have chosen to keep working with his family in the diner he bought them to honor the father's memory. He could have chosen to work as a pro bono attorney helping the poor. He could have chosen to marry for love and have his own children, which would please his mother. She just wanted him to be happy. However, when money becomes your god there's a bigger price to be paid than possibly losing a certain dollar amount in your bank account. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36
Empire Of Gold is really a morality tale and a dark melodrama giving a warning to anyone who puts money and power over people. If you like watching games of high finance, political intrigue, family ambition, then a thriller like this one should suit you to a T. I enjoyed the show and gave it an A grade, even though it's not usually the type of show I would gravitate to -- the acting makes this baby! Enjoy!
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