TIFF 2023 Review ‘Bargain’

“Bargain,” directed by Jeon Woo-sung, is a gripping Korean television series that offers viewers a thought-provoking and thrilling cinematic experience, delving into the intricacies of human nature and the choices people make in dire situations. It combines multiple genres, character transformations, societal commentary, and a suspenseful plot.  The series is subtitled in English.

The story takes an unexpected turn when an earthquake interrupts a black-market organ auction at a hotel, throwing a mix of unsavory and desperate characters, both rich and poor, not so good and really bad, strong and weak, armed and unarmed, male and female, young and old, into a chaotic mess. The question arises:  Who will emerge alive from this dire situation? As the main characters navigate the challenges brought about by the earthquake, they undergo momentous personal growth, evolving from their initial one-dimensional roles into more complex personas. This evolution sheds light on the profound complexities and underlying motivations of the characters, making for a fascinating viewing experience. The film balances its weighty subject matter with moments of intense dark humour, and I mean really intense but comedic, which introduces yet another layer of complexity.

L-R Chang Ryul as Geuk-ryul and Jin Sun-kyu as Noh Hyung-soo in Bargain, episode 2, season 1, streaming on Paramount+ 2023. Photo Credit: TVING Co/Paramount+

The cast delivers intense performances, effectively highlighting the characters’ intricate depths and motivations. Personally, I found myself deeply engrossed in the plot’s direction and the fates of each character, making “Bargain” an enthralling series that kept me guessing. The theme of survival runs through the series not only in terms of the characters physically surviving the earthquake but also the emotional and psychological survival of the circumstances that led these characters to the auction house.  It is an engaging series.  The motif of desperation and struggle, as seen in the personal struggles of the characters, establishes a strong emotional connection between the cast and the audience.

The director skillfully weaves visual elements, employing various camera angles, juxtaposing shots, and utilizing innovative editing techniques. The use of close-ups, medium angles, and wide-angle shots offers viewers a profound sense of the scale of the earthquake’s aftermath, creating an immersive experience and feelings of claustrophobia.

Jeon Jong-Seo as Park Joo Young in Bargain, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+ 2023. Photo Credit: TVING Co/Paramount+

“Bargain” is more than a TV series but a running social commentary on complex social issues such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and the black-market organ trade.  You don’t want to miss it for anything.

Watch the trailer for Bargain below

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