Ottawa Korean Film Festival 2023 | #OttFestLive Film Review: Jango: Uncharged

OKKF 2023 Film Review: Jango: Uncharged (2022) by Baek Seung-kee An Outlandish Parody with International Reach, on a Small Budget

By Emma Poole

In celebration of the 6th Ottawa Korean Film Festival, I had the pleasure of attending a screening at the Mayfair Theatre of Jango: Uncharged (2022) by Korean director Baek Seung-kee. As part of the film’s first international premiere, we were blessed to be able to sit in on a Q&A with the film’s Director, Seung-kee who gave us his exclusive take on the film. Korean films are very well known for comedic relief and absurdity and Jango: Uncharged is no exception to this. Here is my review of the film, my experience as an audience member, and some notes on Ottawa’s Korean Film Festival.

The movie wastes no time letting the audience in on the fact that it is a parody film and by no means meant to be taken seriously. The audience becomes aware that there are two narratives in this film that are indicated by flashbacks scattered throughout. The first one, and perhaps the one that’s most aligned with reality, follows Jango, an underprivileged man who aspires to be a director but is forced to deliver packages alongside his sister Juju, who desires to work in the renowned entertainment industry. Jango sets aside money to make films, however, to support his sister, he ultimately decides to use all the money he has earned so that Juju can pursue her Hollywood dreams. It is soon after this sequence that a new narrative begins to unfold and Jango finds himself enslaved and on the verge of relocating to a slave camp as his debt grows. We are slowly introduced to the characters and the world of Jango as it closely parallels the universe of Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”. The outlandish parody elements and cheeky references, however, make it a completely unique and hilarious experience that had the whole audience laughing along.

Since this is a film that had a very low budget, the crew was very resourceful and used what was accessible to push every element to its comedic maximum. The narrative, props, subtitles, editing, and cinematography are all so dedicated to the “commitment of the bit”, that there is rarely a dull moment.  The first character we are introduced to aside from Jango is slave owner Dr. Salts (A reference to “Dr Shultz” from Tarantino’s movie) who appears early on and offers to buy Jango.

Jango: Uncharged (2022)

Dr. Shultz rides off with Jango on a fake horse toy/ costume and they head off into the universe of Jango: Uncharged, partaking in violent killings – a direct homage to the infamous violence in Tarantino’s film, but with lots of Seung-kee’s signature comedic relief. The subtitles play a big role in the humor of the film. As all the actors are speaking broken English that is relatively understandable to the audience, the subtitles are like a vehicle that constantly delivers comedically altered dialogue that almost feels like an inside joke between the subtitles themselves and the audience. The film’s editing, cinematography, and performance conventions also help to compensate for a lower budget. Color filters are used to indicate the film’s two timelines, the flash of the characters weapons and fight scenes are very animated and unrealistic, enhanced performance decisions (like the frequent breakage of the fourth wall) are all prominent within the film and drive the narrative forward in a low-budget fashion. Interestingly though, some of the scenes of the film do appear to be of higher quality, as if they belong to a film with a bigger budget, such as the final dual scene. It is unknown if Seung-kee reserved his more expensive resources for the more visually intense scenes, or if the increase in quality is just another one of the ways the film is continuing to maintain its outrageous, non-sensical style that exists and will always exist within the universe of Jango: Uncharged.

Jango: Uncharged (2022)

As the credits rolled on the film, booming applause and final lol’s filled the theatre’s soundscape. Based on the audience’s reaction to the film, and my own desire to hear from the mind behind Jango: Uncharged, it was no surprise that almost every audience member stayed to sit in on a Q&A session with Director Baek Seung-kee himself. The question on everyone’s mind post-film was how the movie came to be, to which Seung-kee replied, “Quentin Tarantino came to me in a dream and told me to make this film”. A response that garnered infectious laughter from the audience once again.

In this ridiculous parody film production, the actors, director, and the entire crew’s contagious joy shines through. It’s so ridiclous, but it works! Although some of the film’s references may have been lost in translation, this comedic gem is still able to delight transnational audiences. I’ve seen many films that prove production price does not always equate to quality, Jango: Uncharged is a perfect example. Not to mention, if you can produce a good comedy, you have my whole respect. While some may find it overly absurd and self-deprecating, this is a film that is made for film geeks, by film geeks, and as someone who identifies as such, I enjoyed every second spent in the world of Jango: Uncharged.

The OKFF is on from September 26th – October 8th so it is not too late to catch some of these incredibly diverse Korean films! From genres including drama, comedy, animation, and documentary, and ranging from the latest films to classics, both online and in-person, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Hope to see you there!