[Picture of projector]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)

Sexy scam and counter-scam

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

February 4, 2017 -- High class pornography and hot lesbian sex scenes spice up this Korean film about a bunch of people trying to pull an elaborate scam to separate a rich heiress from her money. This turns out to be a scam within a scam within another scam with several con artists trying to outdo each other in terms of seduction, deception and betrayal.

The story is told in three acts, which are really different perspectives on the same central story, told from the point of view of different characters. Writer-Director Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy”) expertly weaves this story out of elements of greed, sexual desire, love and stifling cultural and economic limitations.

The central character in the first act is Sook-Hee (played by Tae-ri Kim) the daughter of a famous con artist who was executed. She is hired by a con man who calls himself Count Fujiwara (played by Jung-woo Ha) to gain the confidence of Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim of “Right Now, Wrong Then”) in order to help persuade her to marry the Count, who will then steal her money and arrange to have her locked up in an insane asylum. In return, Sook-Hee is to get a share of the money.

Things seem to be going according to plan, until Sook-Hee falls in love with Lady Hideko. That's when things start to get complicated. Act one ends with a dramatic twist, followed by act two, which shows this story from Lady Hideko's perspective. This fills in some details not mentioned in act one.

Act three finally wraps up the story as we find out who really got fooled by whom and who ends up with the money. This act fills in more crucial details left out of the first and second acts. We also find out what horror lives in the secret basement of the estate where Lady Hideko lives. This is hinted at early in the film.

Perhaps not since “Pulp Fiction” have I seen such a cleverly convoluted story woven together from different perspectives. Act two and three pile on more layers of detail, adding more richness to the story. What seems like a simple tale of greed and betrayal becomes something more in act two and three and there is an ample supply of satisfying comeuppance as well.

I can see why this movie ended up on a lot of top 10 lists for 2016. It is just the cure for a jaded film critic tired of seeing the same story treatments over and over. This is certainly different. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)