Big Bet - Episode 1 and 2: From Rags to Riches
Watching this series was a no-brainer as nothing keeps my attention like a thrilling action crime series. The series tells the story of Cha Mu Sik, an abandoned, impoverished hustler who dabbles in everything and anything in his early days to survive a cruel world of bullies and thugs to rise to the top of the casino world in the Philippines and how his life spirals out of control when he gets tangled in a murder case and sees that the only way out of his twisted fate was to put down the last bet that could either put him back to the top of the game or end it.
Not only does it feature two of my favorite eclectic actors, Son Seok Koo (Oh Seung Hoon) and Lee Dong Hwi (Jung Pal), but it brings legendary actor Choi Min Shik (Cha Mu Sik), best known for his stellar acting skills, to the movie Oldboy. It also features top acts Kim Hong Pa (CEO Min Seok Joon), Lee Hye Young, and Heo Sung Tae (Seo Tae Seok). It's safe to say I came into this one with very high expectations, and it didn't disappoint. On the contrary, it held my attention from the minute it started to the end of the first season, leaving me pining for more. I cannot wait for season two.
The series does a good job documenting Cha Mu Sik's hard childhood and, ultimately, how he preserves through his nickel-and-dime hustles as a child with an intelligent mind for business, be it selling newspapers, collecting ants and centipedes, and later on as an adult, running an English language teaching academy. In particular, I was drawn to how he and his old friends from school and the orphanage were able to transform their lives by opening a franchise of underground casino bars. His savvy handling of this illicit business turns him into a multi-millionaire, but what is achieved easily is also lost as easily. Mu Sik's winning streak ends when his office is raided for tax evasion, his partners are arrested, his property and assets are seized, and he is forced to flee to the Phillippines. This is where the actual story begins.
Pretty quickly, it becomes evident that Martin Scorsese heavily inspires Big Bet's scriptwriting, inherently using the flash-back method, production, editing styles, and even its speech patterns, which makes this series intriguing in an almost addictive manner. I commend the writer, actors, director, and production staff for a well-produced drama that captures the mind but fascinates the senses.