G**k: A degatory term for someone of Korean, Vietnamese or Filipino descent. Predominately used in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.
“국” (guk): Korean for country.
G**k is Justin Chon’s directorial debut. The film tells the story of a friendship between two brothers and a little girl during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. For a debut film G**k is both beautifully written and shot. The film stars Justin Chon as Eli, David So as Daniel and Simone Baker as Kamila. All the actors are in the beginning stages of their careers but you feel as if they have been at it for quite sometime.
I suppose the acting is where I’ll start my review. Justin shines as the older brother who must look out for his younger brother Daniel. His character is a complex being who pulls you in although he has an aloof personality. Eli is a serious character whose soft side only really shows in the presence of Kamila. That isn’t to say he doesn’t care for Daniel. He does.The dynamic between Eli and Daniel is an interesting as well as a relatable one to anyone with siblings. Justin portrays the overbearing but concern brother with a gravitas that is not normally attributed to actors early in their careers. David’s character Daniel is the less serious and responsible of the two. Although both characters are worlds apart in their personalities through the portrayals of both actors you understand the reasons behind all their actions. Eli wants to protect his family at all costs whereas Daniel wants to pursue his dreams and live life to the fullest.
Simone Baker is tremendous as Kamila; a little girl caught between her biological family and her makeshift family of Eli and Daniel. She makes you forget that everyone on screen is living in a tense atmosphere due to the Rodney King verdict with her youthfulness and sheer joy. She also has you in constant worry because you just don’t want anything to happen to her. In fact, you end up wanting no one getting hurt but you know that deep down no one is walking away unscathed.
This movie does a great job of showing that often misunderstandings can pull a community apart. Everyone thinks the other is doing better than the other or that they hate one another when this is far from the case. Even the characters that are shown in a less than favorable light aren’t all inherently bad. They just let negative circumstances change them as people which is probably one of the many tragic things about the movie.
Justin also manages to turn the store featured in the movie into a character itself. I personally found myself caring for a building a lot more than I thought I would have. As the movie goes on it becomes clear why Eli cares so much about a shoe store even at the expense of his own well-being sometimes. You also see the importance of the store to Kamila as well.
The movie is shot in black and white but the lack of color only adds to the movie. It adds to the solemn moments of the movie and forces you to focus on the facial features of the characters. Every emotion is laid bare for the audience to see. The camera also has many great shots of the characters’ faces.
Now G**k is a film where you aren’t instantly swept in through explosions or fight scenes. The film builds and builds up to its boiling point but it is not a slow ride. The movie moves at a fairly steady pace. So if you’re looking for constant action then avoid G***. Otherwise it is a solid story with solid character development that is shot beautifully.
Verdict: A story that is easy to follow with complex characters who grow throughout the movie.