“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” finally premiered over the weekend and here are my thoughts on it.
I thought I would initially see more hype around the release of the drama but it appears not to be the case, as other Korean releases by Netflix earlier this year managed to capture more attention and praise internationally, I think it might have to do with the fact that this is a remake.
Note: I have not seen the original drama so I am judging this as a standalone project. However, I have read the original’s general synopsis and researched its success prior to writing this.
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” is written or ‘remastered’ by screenwriter Ryoo Yong-Jae who has had some success in previous projects but I think this is probably his biggest taking to this date.
Since I am not comparing it to the original because I have not seen that, I think for a script it was fine. There were many moments that felt gripping and had me on the edge of my seat but it always felt as if it was on a surface level. If I were to analyze or take a closer look at the specifics, I probably have way more to nitpick at but I didn’t do that and just enjoyed it for what it is.
Added to that, the drama is only 6 episodes, so even if it was disappointing, in comparison to other kdrama releases this year, you can’t get be so mad because even with its state, its still fun and short.
I think if you want to enjoy this drama at a surface level, it will be more than enough.
It moves fast, and at times, too fast. I read that this version cuts the original by half. While the first two parts of the original series were told on the course of 20+ episodes, in our case it will only be 12 episodes, which means there is a lot of material to condense, this can easily become disastrous which appears to be the opinion of most people who gave this a bad review.
Why the remake?
While I did enjoy the drama and some of the cast performances, I can’t help but ask…. Why remake it at all?
I heard fantastic stuff about the original series and it was on my to-watch list for a long time, its so successful and had achieved so much critical and commercial success on Netflix. Its the second most-watched series in Netflix’s history, only second to “Squid Game:… so why would they remake it and cut the episodes by half?
Had the original been lacking or terrible or had so much room for improvement or reinterpretation, I’d understand the reason behind the remake, but “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” feels more like a cash grab that aims to capitalize on the popular original series by adding a flair of Korean-ness to it rather than aiming to do anything particularly different with it.
It takes into consideration how popular kdramas are now globally and how much more seriously they’re being taken, it might have felt like the right thing to do.… but I don’t see that. I don’t see why it should have ever been made. Thats like if “Squid Game” was remade into an American series and was cut off by half, why? Can’t we just enjoy the original?
Also, its on Netflix, a global streaming platform and its still there. So, if people wanted to watch it, they can. I might understand if the original had aired on a foreign country broadcasting channel and it wasn’t already available on a global streaming platform and then was remade… then it would make sense because there are a lot of examples of successful Korean remakes like that, but thats not the case here.
Also, by remaking such a highly praised series you get the risk of being compared, so even if your project isn’t necessarily terrible or even bad, it runs the risk of being compared to something that already has a huge fanbase worldwide and this can be crushing.
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” doesn’t do anything much to add a distinct ‘Korean feel’ to it that would make it feel like a different version or a different take that can stand on its own.
They try to do that at the beginning of the drama, but for the majority of its run, its just very standard, and if they didn’t mention the North and The South a couple of times after that, I would have totally forgotten about it.
I would have preferred if Netflix gave its budget to an actual original idea by a Korean director or screenwriter, they have the funds to do just that and I am sure so many amazing talents would jump at that idea.
On top of that, the second part is yet to be released and if you guys read my reviews, you know thats something I dislike. It felt like a huge interruption and took me out of the watching experience. Given that the performance of the series has been lackluster at best, I don’t know how the second part release will happen. Also, since the original has 5 parts, even with 2 parts, there will be no closure which I hate.
What stands out in “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” is definitely the performances for better or worse. Yoo Ji Tae is amazing as always. The one who stands out the most is Kim Ji Hoon. I like this actor and he’s flown under my radar previously but I thought he was amazing in “Flower of Evil.” Here, he shines and basically steals the spotlight from everyone around him. The dialect and the performance are riveting
The second person who stands out so much is Park Hae Soo but I kinda expected that because he’s so darn amazing already and has been such an amazing actor for a while now. I liked his accent and the way he tackled his character. He was easily one of the most entertaining parts of the drama.
Lee Joo Bin also gives a notably good performance here, I have my eyes on her, she’s so talented. Lee Hyun Woo gives what I’d call his best performance in a drama to date.
Jun Jong-Seo was okay here, I have seen her previous movies and I found her performances there comparatively better. I didn’t feel she was able to fully embody the character but that could also be because of how short the series is or because of how it was written. The character has a cool-tragic backstory but it didn’t feel sincere or deep. The character was easily forgettable. Opposite the other actors in this drama, Jun Jong-Seo was easily overshadowed which I honestly didn’t expect to see because I’ve seen all of her prior acting projects.
Now onto the misses.
Rookie actress Lee Si Woo’s casting is odd here… like really odd. She doesn’t stand on the same level as everyone around her and they’re all either extremely talented or veterans in this industry. She has a small but integral role in this drama, however, this character needed someone who could pull it off. She has a long way to go.
Another performance that wasn’t to my liking is done by the model-actress Jang Yoon-Ju but I must say, I don’t know if its because she needs more practice in the acting department or whether this was the director’s request. I say this because her performance isn’t necessarily bad but its cringy. The lines she utters are cringy and the way she moves is… odd.. its as if she’s trying so hard to be this femme fatale but its not working.
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” is not the worst thing I’ve seen in 2022, but its not the best either. On surface level, if you haven’t seen the original, I’d say you will enjoy this one a lot and might even question why I wrote what I wrote above, but in my case, I fail to comprehend the reason behind why it was remade to begin with.
I feel bad for everyone involved in this project because I am pretty sure they tried their best. Its not bad, but in comparison, it fails on so many levels. I say this as someone who hasn’t seen the original but read its general synopsis and researched on its success prior to writing this.
Setting aside my opinion, this kdrama has received such mixed responses its honestly shocking. I would say a good portion of those who watched the original series and saw this was left extremely unimpressed while people who haven’t seen the original probably think its one of the best kdramas that came out this year.
All in all, I have mixed feelings on this drama. I wonder how Netflix will handle the roll out for part two because I highly doubt they expected such a response and I highly doubt we’ll get the full experience judging by the reception on the international scale. I could be wrong, and I hope I am but I wonder whether this project will ever be completely wrapped up. And for this reason as well, I am hesitant to show optimism.
So have you guys seen this drama? what are your thoughts on it?