All about ideas…

Reprise: Jackpot The Royal Gambler

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I’ve just finished watching Daebak, aka Jackpot, The Royal Gambler again. This is the first time I’ve watched it since it originally aired in 2016, and I have to admit I enjoyed more than I did the first time. The first time I focused on the story line and plot and failed to just enjoy the story and acting. This time, I just sat back and watched. This time I watched the acting and ignored the flaws in the script and story line that kept this drama from achieving the ratings the all-star line up of actors should have garnered.

Regardless of the flaws in the script, I believe, now more than ever, that Jang Keun Suk should spend his time focusing on acting. I’ve watched a lot of actors during my life….yeah, I’m a film buff…but rarely have I seen a more natural born actor then Jang Keun Suk. I’ve seen most of his films and dramas and have always been impressed by his acting in them, but in this drama, he exhibits an acting talent that is overwhelming…and deserving of greater scripts.

From the beginning in Jackpot, where his cock-fighting rooster meets defeats and becomes the family meal to his theft of 100 nyang to his adolescent joy at finally being in Hangyang, Jang Keun Suk enthralls this audienc and keeps them laughing. He portrays his character with such an innocence and youthful exuberance that we, the audience, can’t help but fall in love with his character. His joy, his happiness, his excitement combined with his back woods, innocent belief in himself all make for a character that causes us to laugh at his antics. Even when he meets the one special woman in his life, he exhibits all the comedic antics common to youth but rarely seen by the adult world. Again, Jang Keun Suk makes viewers continue to gleefully adore his lovable, silly, and happy-go-lucky character.

But it’s those very emotions that continue to affect viewers when his character’s life turns around and he’s faced with the harsh realities of his world. Having gained the audience’s empathy, we can’t hold back our emotions when he’s put through trial after trial. Even though the plot has Jang Keun Suk’s character, Baek Deagil, survive unrealistic and thoroughgoing torture, beatings, and stabbings, he somehow manages to survive…and become yet another character. In this character, Jang Keun Suk exhibits a coming of age wherein he loses the innocence of his earlier character to grow into a man who is capable of seeing the best and worst of his world. In this character, we see a Jang Keun Suk that is probably true to his own nature and character. In that sense, at this point in the story, he portrays a character that is very much akin to himself.


However, as the character of Baek Daegil grows along with the plot  line, we see a character that develops an empathy for others, particularly the underprivileged and poor. He chooses to become one with them and protect them. He puts aside his own ego in the recognition that they are more important than he alone…and, thus, he must save them, his brother the King, and Josean itself from destruction. This is a Jang Keun Suk not previously seen. An actor capable of realistically portraying someone other than himself and a person of his own age. Yet, Jang Keun Suk pulls off the transformation with amazing agility and grace. Not once does he stumble in showing the both the innate humor of Daegil that harkens back to his youthful self as well as the seriousness the character deserves as a mature man intent on fighting corruption and the evil that haunts his nation. Pulled out of his retirement as a Royal Guardsman, he seeks to end a revolution that will cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Here again, Jang Keun Suk demonstrates his remarkable ability to transform himself into an older and wiser man who chooses to put the nation and her people before himself.


There are so many scenes which I could point to that make my point as to the formidable quality of Jang Keun Suk’s acting that it becomes impossible to choose one or two alone from this drama. His performance was masterful to say the least. It is unfortunate that the drama failed to receive higher ratings. Nevertheless, of all the Korean dramas I have watched…that now numbers in the hundreds…this one kept my interest the longest because of the quality of the acting, particularly that of Jang Keun Suk and Choi Min-Soo.


Nevertheless, it is Jang Keun Suk’s ability to portray realistically the maturation of his character with such believability that makes him an outstanding actor. In all of his previous dramas, he’s portrayed a character approximating his own age because they were not only comfortable characters for him but also because he could relate to those characters. However, in this drama, he went far beyond his comfort zone to show a range of character development that few Korean actors are permitted in a drama to achieve. And although he worked with some of Korea’s finest actors, he matched and often exceeded them in his portrayal of his character and the character’s development and growth.


Personally, I would love to see Jang Keun Suk acting in a major film that drew Hollywood’s and international attention, just the way Lee Byung-hun, Rain and Yunjin Kim have. His acting talent is far too great to be confined to Asia alone.


Written by Valerie Curl

April 26, 2017 at 9:30 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I recently watched this drama for the second time. I agree with your review and would love to see Jang Keun Suk capture the world with his talent.


    April 30, 2017 at 11:13 AM

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