The company A24 has become a dominant production and distribution company for all lovers of independent works and films that do not target a wider audience. This is precisely why viewership, although the films were praised by critics, was not at a top level, but lately that has also been changing – typical examples are the Oscar winners Parasite and Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s as if people have opened their eyes to the quality of products that A24 offers, and where there is popularity, Netflix immediately jumps in to buy the rights. Beef is a black comedy consisting of one season with ten episodes, although South Korean author Lee Sung Jin plans to do two more seasons. The series arrived on Netflix servers on April 6.
The main characters of the series are Danny Cho (Steven Jan), repairman and Amy Lau (Ali Vong), a successful entrepreneur whose shop needs to be bought by a large retail chain. The lives of these strangers are unexpectedly brought together by an incident on the road – Amy provoked Danny by showing her the middle finger, which culminated in a chase. Although they haven’t seen each other’s faces, this incident causes their emotions to take over and their lives to become intertwined, creating an unforeseen butterfly effect that will affect their jobs and ultimately their families. Among the secondary characters, Danny’s younger brother Paul, Danny’s cousin Isaac, who is involved in petty crime, as well as Amy’s husband George, an artist who has a peaceful and calm philosophy of life and who is in charge of raising their daughter, stand out.
Each of us has daily moments of anger, but unlike those of us who manage to contain it, Beef it shows us the possible outcomes when anger escalates. Anger is the main theme of the series and we see how everyone deals with it differently, as well as how those who are explosive become calm and vice versa. The concept of a smoldering rage meeting its initial cap and turning into something much more is not something we haven’t seen in movies and series, but in this series it’s really believable and human, almost to the point where what we’re watching becomes less comical and more terrifying.
The series gives us a complete insight into how the different social classes navigate their daily lives – Danny is weak with money and hasn’t had much luck in his business ventures, while Amy is married to an artist and close to selling her own business for millions. At first glance, there is a clear contrast between our characters because Danny is a “little man” struggling for existence, while Amy is a financially and commercially successful woman. However, as the story progresses we learn how similar their lives are “behind closed doors”, and an incident on the road is the catalyst for their new similarities.
There’s no denying that Amy and Danny are bad people, and one of the great parts of this show is that it doesn’t portray them as nice. In the first episode, we get a scene between the two that shows the downward trajectory of their emotional states, all leading up to a furious climax. Both Amy and Danny are mishandling the whole situation, but they are heroes in their own minds – the timeless quote that every villain is the hero of their own story is borne out in this series, especially when Danny decides to further inflame an already burning incident.
There’s a lot going on beneath the basic themes of anger and obsession, and it’s worth watching. The theme of love-hate relationships is not limited to Danny and Amy but is filtered through all the characters, showing how it all affects different relationships and how they can differ. We have a complex dynamic between brothers filled with disagreements about honesty, planning for the future, work habits, Korean heritage, and the like. There are the problems of starting and maintaining your own business, money problems, as well as the disadvantages of borrowing money, especially from family.
We have a situation when the solidity and reality of life cross mental boundaries and enter the field of suicide. There are also family expectations and the internal conflict between the need for financial stability and the need to spend time with loved ones. There are plot elements around religion and spiritual entities and how they affect us, either positively or negatively, and this is one of the more important of the “tools” used to navigate this maze of drama. The icing on the cake is the sexual fetish for guns and the fall of cryptocurrencies (although Bitcoin didn’t fall to $1700).
Beef throughout its duration it feels like we are watching some feverish race against time, like watching the movie Uncut Gems. The first two episodes are a dizzying merry-go-round of happenings and discoveries, and the pace is expected to slow down a bit, but it picks back up around episode seven. The pace is such that it jumps from scene to scene in order to cram as much drama as possible into a thirty-minute episode, and there are moments when the short length of each episode somewhat “harms” its quality. While some episodes struggle to stay as interesting as the first two, Beef it still works because, in terms of sheer quality, it’s light years ahead of recent Netflix projects.
In any case, even when we watch the scenes that are not too dynamic or exciting, they are not boring because they are delivered by an excellent and charismatic tandem of leading actors consisting of the comedian Ali Wong and the respected actor Steven Yan who has an Oscar nomination for the movie Minari. The two combine their personalities and talents to create a unique dynamic that doesn’t feel forced or unrealistic. Also, given the tone and contrast of the series, they also create a special kind of chemistry between their characters. Subtle movements or facial expressions convey the weight of the incessant drama unfolding around them, never missing an opportunity to make us sympathize with their plight, despite the undeniable malevolence that permeates their personalities. This is especially true of Jan, whose bewildered appearance matches every scene he’s in, even in the ones where we see him doing well in life.
Beef is an exciting series that combines fast-paced, dark humor and troubled characters with deep existential and human themes.
my final rating: 9/10
Source: The Filmske Recenzije by filmskerecenzije.com.
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