Karaoke Crazies

Karaoke Crazies ★★★★

Lee Moon-Sik plays Sung Wook, an owner of a karaoke bar that isn’t exactly doing great business. The bills keep coming in, but the customers don’t. He needs to hire a helper, a pretty girl who will sing along with the customers and convince them to spend more money. And that’s how he ends up with the strange and quiet Ha-Suck (Bae So-eun). She doesn’t seem very good, initially, but after a conversation about the needs of the business it looks like she has figured out a way to keep customers happy and wanting to come back. It’s just not a traditional way. Then along comes the beautiful and upbeat Na-Ju (Kim Na-Mi), ready to take the business up and up, although she’s not sure if she can make a go of things when she realises how Ha-Suck has been keeping herself busy.

Karaoke Crazies unfolds almost as you think it would. It’s quirky, amusing, dark, and contains plenty of bad singing. But, thanks to four fantastic central performances (Bang Jun-Ho makes up the quartet, playing a deaf mute who takes a liking to the bar), it’s also surprisingly sweet, and even slightly moving at times.

The direction from Kim Sang-chan is fairly straightforward, yet it’s also spot on when it comes to just how far to push things and how tasteful, or even tasteless, to make certain scenes. This is helped by the script from Park Ji-Hong, which gives every character plenty of flaws while also ensuring that they have enough goodness on display, or just hinted at, to make their journey together an engrossing and rewarding one.

The first third of the film may feel like it belongs to Moon-Sik and So-eun, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but Na-Mi makes a strong impression from her very first scenes. The fact that she doesn’t walk away with the entire film is largely down to her performance, but also more proof of the strength in the direction and writing.

It may have benefited from a few minutes trimmed here and there, especially as things become more predictable in the final act, but I say that while also happily admitting that I could have spent another hour or so in the company of these karaoke crazies. And I hope others agree.

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