Dir/scr: Choi Dong-hoon. S Kor. 2006. 139mins.

The undisputed homegrown box-office champion of late inSouth Korea - where it took some three million admissions in its first fortnight- Tazza: The High Rollers is a gambling caper thatraces off from the word go and doesn't slow down for the next 139 minutes.

Choi Dong-hoon, whose feature The Big Swindle indicated his interestin the genre, shifts this time from con artists to card sharks, tracing thefast-moving career of a money-hungry young man who loses all his money, thensets out to win it back.

While it offers littleinsight into the mindset of a gambler, Tazza is nevertheless an old-fashioned action-packed jauntwhich may not appeal much to festivals (at Pusan it played in the market) but should travelwell elsewhere in Asia and beyond. Certainly Hollywood studios, always chasing potential remakematerial, are advised to give it serious consideration. An open ending offersthe potential for a sequel.

Goni (Cho Seung-woo),a bored shop worker, tries to get rich through card playing with all thepassion of a gullible addict but loses everything he has, as well as thealimony of his recently divorced sister.

Soon Gonirealises that there is more to cards than luck andbegins to learn the ropes. During an illicit game he gets into trouble and issaved by the legendary Mr Pyeong(Baek Yoon-sik), a retiredmastermind who Goni takes as his teacher.

Once he is good enough, Goni's mentor introduces him to Madame Jeong(Kim Hye-soo) whose stunning looks are matched onlyby her deadly rapacity at card sharking. The pair provea winning twosome in bed as well as at the gaming tables, where they ruthlesslyfleece one victim after another, she drawing them in with her charm, he then takingeverything they are foolish enough to wager. But Goniincurs Madam Jeong's wrath when he falls for Hwaran (Lee Su-gyeong), a barowner.

Other obstacles for Goni include a shop customer to who he owes money and whohas plenty of strong-arm support; and his encounters with the infamous Awgee (Kim Yeon-seok), who takesthe right hand of any opponent he defeats.

Tazzahas much to pack into its running time and often the details can becomeconfused, for example the presence, disappearance and subsequentre-introduction of Goni's friend Gwang(an over-the-top You Hae-jin).But it all races along breathlessly from one adrenalin-pumped escapade to thenext, and audiences are best advised to simply go with the flow and not worryabout minor incongruities

Cho Seung-woo has the appealof a Korean John Cusack; if Kim Hye-soois too petulant for her own good whenever she pretends to play the dumb beauty,then she more than compensates when she pulls her fangs out.

Cinematographer Choi Young-hwan makes the best ofthe handsome cast while Shin Min-kyung edits with tremendousefficiency, contributing to the vibrancy.

Production companies/backers
Sidus FNH
Charm Films

International sales
CJ Entertainment

Executive producers
Kim Ju-song
Choi Wan

Tcha Seung-jae
Mim Mi-hea

Choi Dong-hoon
from the comic book by
Huh Young-man
Kim Se-young

Choi Young-hwan

Shin Min-kyung

Production design
Yang Hong-sam

Jang Young-gyu

Main cast
Cho Seung-woo
Kim Hye-Soo
Baek Yoon-sik
Yoo Hae-jin
Kim Yun-seok
Lee Su-gyeong
Kim Jeong-ran
Kim Gyeong-ik
Ju Jin-mo
Kim Sang-ho
Kim Eung-su
Baek Do-bin
Seo Dong-su