Like “The Big Short,” “Margin Call” and Johnnie To’s underrated “Life Without Principle,” the Korean drama “Default” successfully turns a global financial crisis into a movie that’s at once engaging and educational. Set during the 1997 Asian currency meltdown, the film weaves together three stories, each representative of what happened, who was affected and how South Korea recovered.
“Burning” star Yoo Ah-in is in a very different role here, playing a ruthless young financial manager who figures out early that his country’s about to go bankrupt and angles to make some money off the crash. Kim Hye-su plays a bank manager who urges the government to inform the public before it’s too late, while Huh Joon-ho is a small businessman who makes a big credit-backed deal then watches his dreams crumble overnight.
Director Choi Kook-hee and screenwriter Eom Seong-min err on the side of the over-explanatory (which viewers who don’t know a won from a baht might appreciate). What’s more welcome is their sense of purpose. “Default” functions in part as a critique of the economy of 2018, arguing that the inequity now was built into the bailouts then.
Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Playing: Starts Nov. 30, CGV Cinemas Los Angeles; CGV Buena Park