Could this be the darkest and bleakest cartoon of all time?!

I like animated films and have watched far more than my share.  So, when the editor of Influx asked me if I wanted to watch and review a Korean full-length animated film, I was thrilled.  However, I was ill-prepared to watch The Fake, as it turned out absolutely nothing like I expected.  I’m used to ‘nice’ Korean animation, like the amazingly adorable Doggy Poo (seriously…this is a charming and sweet film about, well, doggy poo that’s well worth seeing) as well as many American cartoons like The Fairy Odd Parents and The Simpsons which are actually animated in South Korea.  In some ways this is good, as the film is incredibly original and breaks this predictable pattern in order to make something unique–and I love unique.  However, on the other hand, it’s so incredibly dark and bleak that it probably only has a rather limited audience.

The Fake
Written & Directed by
Sang-ho Yeon
Kwon Haehyo, Kim Jaerok, Hee-von Park
Release Date
Out Now
Martin’s Grade: C-

By comparison, the legendary Japanese anime, Akira, is practically a Disney film–it’s that dark!  Very, very rough language which Influx most likely will not let me put in my review, several incredibly vicious murders, a dog getting its brains bashed in with a hammer, sex and nudity, the profuse use of the word ‘retard’ (which made me cringe), prostitution and a strongly anti-church bent are just part of what you’ll experience with this film–making is the darkest and most cynical cartoon I have ever seen.

When the film begins, an evangelist and his publicist are on a crusade in a small town.  While the preacher seems pretty sincere, he doesn’t realize that the publicist is a wanted swindler–a man who is ready, willing and able to commit any sin in order to get what he wants out of life.  Oddly, the only one in town who seems to realize that the church is a sham is Min-chul.  But Min-chul is no hero–he’s every bit as violent and awful as the publicist and his gang of hired thugs, so Min-chul’s desire to bring down this ministry and expose them as hypocrites is a personal grudge–an unreasoning, vicious and sadistic one at that.  Through most of the film, you have no idea who is going to die by the end of the film, but you know someone will!  In fact, many will die–several of which will be hacked to death.  But it’s not all Min-chul’s doing, as by the end of the film practically everyone is killing each other–even the seemingly sincere evangelist!
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As you can probably guess, this is not the sort of film to show your kids.  Heck, many adults might also want to avoid it due to its violence, language and messages about Christianity.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!  However, the film is not without merits.  Although the film’s message was dark and cynical, I could sure respect it for being so daring.  The filmmaker, Yeun Sang-ho, obviously wasn’t courting popular opinion and a mass-market with this film–it’s clearly his own personal vision.  Additionally, while I wasn’t completely in love with the animation (it was blockier and less fluid than its Japanese and American competition), the color palette is striking with its use of subdued colors and earth tones.  However, I cannot ignore that the film’s characters are far from subtle.  Min-chul is actually rather ridiculous because you cannot imagine anyone THIS violent (he beats people up in front of cops and even beats the cops up as well) and awful.  Additionally, and I don’t blame the filmmakers for this one, the quality of the subtitling is only fair to average.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for something very different and are not put off by the violence and other adult content plus you are not offended by the, you may well enjoy The Fake.  Others, however, might want to think twice, as the film is sure to offend your sensibilities–and it surely intends to do this.

by Martin Hafer