Squid Game
오징어 게임 - Ojingeo Game
Netflix (2021) 9 Episodes
Horror Melodrama
Rated R; Grade: D
Review by Brian, VA, USA
Edited by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

"For the love of money is the root of all evil."
1 Timothy 6:10 KJV


I have to admit I was warned against watching this drama, Squid Game (2021), by many fans of Korean dramas who have watched far more of them than I have. I was warned that it would be horrific and bloody, but my brother had seen it, and when I was visiting him during my vacation I watched it with him at his place, since I don't pay for Netflix, and he does. He wanted to know what I would think of it, since he has watched even fewer Korean dramas than I have, as of this writing only four. My total is closer to fifty, many of them courtesy of Jill's sharing generosity over the many years that I've known her. When this Korean drama was completed I told my brother of several examples of real Korean drama masterpieces he should watch in future. I really hate to think that this one was anyone's first Korean drama. Honestly, I feel sorry for those people. This drama is not representative of the finest Korean dramas ever made. Far from it, and I won't be watching a sequel either. It will just be more disgusting killing. Enough is enough! 

I had seen the male lead actor Lee Jung Jae in two popular works he made when he was younger, the film Il Mare (2000), and the drama Sandglass (1995), courtesy of Jill loaning me her goodies on DVD again. I had liked him a lot in those classics. So for that reason alone I watched it and stuck with it, even though I was disgusted by the story and ended up giving it only a D grade. That actor was excellent in his performance, but the script was terrible. There were so many unrealistic situations.

Actor Lee Jung Jae two decades ago
in Sandglass and Il Mare

I have never written a review for my friend's web site before, and I thought it was long past due that I do so, in this case to warn people away from this awful drama, if they haven't already seen it. My synopsis will be brief, since the story is about mass murders of hundreds of people who are deeply in debt, and therefore it isn't necessary to go point by point, blow by blow, on the 'art' of killing people in different ways in this drama. You'll get the picture easily enough just by my brief description.

The Story:

Seong Gi Hun (Lee Jung Jae) is a low paid chauffeur - taxi driver who is deeply in debt. He owes loan sharks a fortune (a so over-used plot point cliche in Korean dramas as to be almost laughable at this point in time). He is divorced and has one young daughter named Ga Young (Jo A In) whom he cares about deeply, but his ex-wife (Kang Mal Geum) was given custody of the girl and has since remarried. He hears that her new family will be moving to America soon, and he is desperate to raise money so he can hire an attorney to win custody away from his ex. (You're a mess! Good luck with that, buddy - Jill).

One day in a subway corridor he has an encounter with a polished but mysterious man in a suit (actor Gong Yoo from Goblin in a cameo role) who tells him he can take free tickets offered him and travel to a place where he can possibly win a fortune of money to pay off his debts. Gi Hun thinks the man is crazy, but he decides to take the risk anyway. Once on a vehicle taking others to the same destination a spray fills the air and knocks him out cold, just like all the others are knocked out too. When he wakes up he is in a strange futuristic type setting with hundreds of other people, all vying for a chance to be the sole winner of the fortune.

They are told they will have to play grown up versions of popular childhood games in Korea, and that anyone who doesn't obey the rules precisely, or who loses a game, will be 'cancelled', though in fact that means murdered, which they don't know at first. Their greed begins to get the better of them, and even though hundreds of victims keep being murdered, most remain to try to be the winner, even when given a rare chance to leave. Each time a new game starts hundreds more Won bills are added to a giant chandelier above their heads in the main room. This entices them to stay to compete, against their better judgment. Each person gets a number on their jacket and they are called that number in place of their personal names by the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

Some of the other debt-ridden players Gi Hun gets to know are: the oldest player Oh Il Nam (Oh Young Soo from Ki Duk Kim's masterpiece film Spring, Summer, Fall ... and Spring), who is supposedly going senile and is terminally ill; Cho Sang Woo (Park Hae Soo, Legend Of The Blue Sea), a legal pro guy deeply in debt, whose mother (Park Hye Jin) thinks he's rich; Kang Sae Byeok (Jung Ho Yeon) a young woman who is clinically depressed and is willing to risk dying to save a young beloved family member from an orphanage; foreigner Ali Abdul (Tripathi Anupam) who is too trusting of his team players, and who will do anything to protect his wife and baby from destitution; the evil Deok Soo Jang (Heo Sung Tae, from Watcher, Different Dreams, Tunnel, Saimdang, who has a face you just yearn to punch, so he always plays bad characters! - Jill) who takes up with an insane whore named Ha Mi Nyeo (Kim Joo Ryung) who uses sex to get him to accept her into his obnoxious group of clingers. One of the most distasteful and disgusting and unnecessary scenes in the drama is a sex scene between them in a public bathroom. Gross!

Another big cameo role goes to actor Byung Hun Lee (from IRIS, my favorite Korean drama of all time) who plays the mostly masked "Front Man", who gives the evil orders behind the scenes. His younger brother Hwang Jun Ho (Wi Ha Joon, Romance Is A Bonus Book) is a cop who thinks his brother might have died, and he infiltrates the secret place where the games take place to find out its secrets, to see if he can find out the truth about the disappearance of his brother. What will happen when he finds his brother has turned evil and is running this place?

The six childhood games played by the adults (I had to look them up) are Red Light - Green Light 1-2-3, Sugar Honeycomb, Tug of War, Balls, Glass Bridge, and Knife Fights. After each game multiple hesitating or losing contestants are murdered. Masked killers come around and shoot them dead. If that entertains you then please, readers ... seek a psychiatrist. (Another game K-drama that is much better than this is 2014's masterpiece Liar Game, contestants are NOT murdered if they lose in that drama. - Jill)  


I confess it was a relief when this drama was over! Even nine episodes was overkill. (Pun intended, Brian? ;) - Jill). It was obvious to me from the beginning who was going to win the game. They tried to fool me in the story, that only one person would survive, the winner, but when a certain additional contestant was not shown being shot and killed but you just hear a shot off-screen I immediately knew he had not died, and that there was a nefarious reason why they pretended they killed him. I remember Jill telling us "if you don't see them actually die in a Korean drama they aren't really dead." So Squid Game's predictability made me like it even less. Then there was a scene where the winner adopted a relative child of one of the contestants from an orphanage even though he was not related to the child, and then hands the child over to another contestant's mother to raise. Don't orphanages in Korea have stricter adoption regulations than that? Ridiculous. Then there were even more ludicrous scenes showing Westerners viewing the games as entertainment in a hidden room. Those scenes were downright painful to watch. I told my brother to fast-forward through them!

I hope this review serves as a warning to those blessed people who haven't watched it yet, to avoid it. There are so many better Korean dramas to watch! Generally, the older the drama the better, and the dramas that were not funded in any way, shape or form by Netflix money, which Americanizes Korean dramas to look like Hollywood garbage. Squid Game is more like a nightmare, and there is no way children under the age of eighteen should be able to watch it at all. That would be child abuse, in my opinion. Don't inflict this on them. Or yourself, either. I hope Korea stays away from the horror genre now, and makes more traditional drama stories with morality and romance in them. Dramas like this one are not the kind of Korean story all of us fell in love with years ago. Make stories that are beautiful and inspiring again, Korea. (Amen! - Jill).

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