The Player, starring Song Seung Heon and Krystal, is a crime-fighting drama with some unlikely players—prosecutors partnering with a band of talented swindlers. Plots with con men hijinks and car chases don’t usually make the top of my kdrama watch list. Car chase scenes always last too long for me, yet I kept watching this drama. The Player has a lot going for it.
Yes, there are car chases and capers that resolve with improbably easy solutions, but the cinematography is slick and Song seems like he’s having the best time with this role.
Before this, my favorite Song role was his earnest sad suitor in When A Man Loves. He’s having a lot more fun in The Player, where his frequent smiles and fearless nonchalance add an appealing gloss to his portrayal of Kang Ha Ri. The well-tailored con artist has a mysterious past and you have to wonder what motivates him to lead his unconventional life. Kang Ha Ri is a stylish swindler. The ease with which he outsmarts criminals and throws serious punches, while wearing runway-worthy suits, could easily qualify Song to play the next James Bond.
Krystal Jung is fun in her role too, as a tough loner and talented driver who helps Song’s gang escape. It’s an acting role that truly suits the f(x) member and her transformation is believable. Her character, Cha A Ryeong, doesn’t trust easily. She’s been burned too many times. This brotherhood of thieves might be the first real family she knows. They may be bad guys but they’re good to her.
Rounding out the gang is Lee Si Eun, quickly becoming one of my favorite k-drama comic sidekicks. He plays a computer whiz as he did in Ho Gu’s Love and W. The gang’s brawn is supplied by Tae Won Seuck, who has bulked up to Hulk proportions since he was in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo.
The con artists eventually team up with a prosecutor, helping to crack cases that internal corruption in the prosecutor’s office has squashed because they involve well-connected individuals. Their prosecutor connection is played by veteran character actor Kim Won Hae, who has in his career attempted an impressive variety of roles. Detective, thug, department head, military commander, eunuch, dad, taxi driver. He was even two characters in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. This is a pretty low-key role for him, but he’s good at expressing his frustration with his department’s corruption.
Rooting out corruption is a common theme in k-dramas and the con men help Kim’s character expose it at several levels, which begs the question: which characters are the real con men? Song and his merry men, plus Krystal? Or officials in the prosecutor’s office and the government, whose positions shield them from the consequences of their fraudulent and criminal activities.
Ha Ri’s secret past may reveal why he is no ordinary swindler. He seems to know a lot about the law and it’s hard to believe he is truly only in the game for the money. It may not provide a sophisticated plot but The Player is a fun ride and it’s always satisfying to watch smart players take down the corrupt in positions of power.