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New Segeuk – Daebak The Royal Gambler

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Over the last year and a half, I’ve become enamored by Korean movies and dramas, particularly the dramas. Like Hollywood mini-series, they feature one extended story line of usually 20 to 24 episodes, although some have fewer and some have more. I particularly enjoy the sageuk genre. “Sageuk” is the Hangul (the Korean language) word for historical dramas which are a mixture of factual history and fiction.

SBS (Seoul Broadcasting Service) has begun broadcasting a new sageuk entitled Daebak (Eng: Jackpot) The Royal Gambler. The plot of this 24-episode drama revolves around two brothers: one abandoned at birth; the other destined to become King Yeongjo. It is a story of political intrigue and conflict over the fates of both Joseon and the two young men, set against a background of gambling, betrayal and revenge.

The first two episodes reveal the overall plot conflict and the life and stakes in play. The scenes are tightly written, the dialogue sharp and to the point. No fluff or wasted dialogue fills the scenes. The actors’ expressions as well as the scenes of dramatic action take the place of words. The Director made each scene tense with dramatic cinematography, moving quickly from one scene to another while not losing the story line.

The third episode introduces the protagonist: young Dae-Gil, abandoned at birth by his Royal Consort mother who fears for his life in the palace. Born premature, many at court suspect the child is the son of another man (her previous husband) and some see the infant as a threat to their power and influence. As a result, Consort Choi Suk Bin gives the infant to her previous husband, a perpetually losing gambler addict, to raise. Nevertheless, the infant suffers repeated attacks on his life, but his destiny thwarts the attacks.

Now, twenty years later, Dae-Gil has become a charming if slightly comical young man, going from one comedy-laden incident to another as he tries to win or steal enough money to return to Hanyang (Seoul) with his father and adopted uncle. First, he tries to win at cock fighting, but just as Dae-Gil begins jumping up and down, cheering his rooster winning, the bird quits mid-battle and sits down. The feckless bird becomes lunch for the losing three-some as they ponder what to do next.

The scene shifts. Dea-Gil now tells a group of thieves an excited story, sending them off on a wild goose chase whereupon he quickly enters their warehouse and begins stealing their money. Of course, the thieves discover him. A mad chase begins as Dae-Gil leaps from the warehouse and races out of town. Meeting his family on the road, the three run for their lives to the boat dock and board a departing boat…only for Dae-Gil, grumbling that the boat isn’t moving fast enough, promptly gets into a tussle and falls overboard. Finally, arriving in Hanyang young Dae-Gil excitedly jumps for joy, flinging his arms wide. But destiny steps in to show him the woman he’ll come to love.

Thanks to a cast of veteran actors, nothing is superfluous. They each play their parts to perfection. With a lesser skilled actor, Dae-Gil could have become a one-dimensional character, perhaps to be pitied or scorned. But Jang Keun Suk breathes life into the character of Dae-Gil. He’s at once charming and comical, young and happy-go-lucky, spirited and enthusiastic and yet a trouble-making, unrestrained and anxious young man always getting himself into one situation after another.

Needless to say, I’m enjoying this drama tremendously. How will the two brothers meet and how will their signaled conflict play out? How will the woman with whom Dea-Gil fall in love at first sight and whom young Prince Yeongjo desires affect their lives? Where will gambling and politics collide? I have a feeling Daebak will provide a very bumpy ride but thoroughly enjoyable one.

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Written by Valerie Curl

April 4, 2016 at 2:47 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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