Dirty Carnival, A (Biyeolhan geori) (2006)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Gallery-Stills from film
Trailer-Other Eastern Eye Releases
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 134:15 (Case: 414)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ha Yu
CJ Entertainment
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ha Yu
In-jae Heo
Yoon Jae-Moon
Ho-jin Jeon
Ku Jin
In-seong Jo
Byeong-chun Kim
Yun-Hee Kim
Tae-won Kwon
Bo-young Lee
Jong-hyeok Lee
Gung-Min Nam
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Yeong-wook Jo

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Byung-du (In-sung Zo) is a mob lieutenant who is struggling to keep both his biological family and his crime family afloat. His mother is ill. His gang are hungry. His boss, himself only a mid-level thug, is consistently putting other gangsters ahead of Byung-du's gang despite their consistent completion of "difficult" assignments.

It is no surprise that Byung-du seizes the opportunity to do some dirty work for a higher ranking gangster, assassinating a high ranking district attorney, in order to earn the right to try and take over his boss's operation. Though his gang come out on top, violence only begets more violence and Byung-du soon finds the demands on his services becoming more frequent and far messier.

Taking solace in the friendship of old school friends, Byung-du tries to forge a romance with an old flame and a friendship with an aspiring film director. Whilst his old friends provide a break from his gangster life, they also manage to derail the roller-coaster that his life has become.

A Dirty Carnival was both critically acclaimed and a commercial success in its home country, South Korea, upon its release. It was nominated for numerous awards in South Korea's Oscar-equivalent Grand Bell Awards, but failed to win any. All that success in its home country has failed to translate internationally, and it is easy to see why. Much like Byung-du's story itself the movie is wildly uneven. When it is good, it is very good - particularly the gritty action scenes and tense gangster relationships. When it is bad, it is numbingly so. The romance and family melodrama aspects to the story are enough to make a Home and Away producer cringe.

The nail in it's coffin is simply that Asian gangster movies have been done to death in the last few years and A Dirty Carnival neither offers anything new or does anything better than existing fare. Perhaps this sounds like a broad generalisation, but both the plot and style of storytelling shares a lot with Johnny To's gangster fare, particularly the brilliant Election films, though To had the good sense not to waste our time with clunky, out-of-character romance.

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Transfer Quality


The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, cropped at the sides from the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. Youtube videos exist that clearly demonstrate the wider image of the theatrical film.

The video quality of the feature is generally poor. The image is poorly focused, albeit consistently so throughout the film, and soft. Shadow detail is fair, however the brightness of the image is too high to the point that blacks look like dark grey. Mild grain is present throughout the film and there is no sign of low level noise.

The colour in the film is pale and contrast is relatively weak.

The worst aspect of the transfer is excessive edge enhancement, which plagues the whole transfer. Literally every scene has thick ghostly halos around focal objects, which are made even more obvious by the general softness of the image. This disc features by far the most prominent example I have ever seen of this artefact. Some of the best examples are at 3:54, 52:23 and 49:24. Mild mosquito noise is also occasionally noticeable, particularly on the opening and closing credits. Thankfully there is no significant sign of macro blocking. Despite the poor transfer to digital, there is no sign of film artefacts in the transfer.

Bold yellow subtitles are present for the feature. They appear to provide quite an accurate, though occasionally a little too precise, and well-timed translation of the original Korean.

This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 76:41 but was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio tracks are present for the film (although they are mislabelled as English on the disc itself when put in a player). Both sound decent without being particularly remarkable.

The dialogue is presented at a good level in the mix and appears to be well synchronised to the video.

The film features a rather out of place score by Yeong-wook Jo. The score is based heavily on carnival organs and accordions, as well as traditional orchestral instruments, which certainly fits to the film's title but not its pacing or screen story.

The surrounds and subwoofer are each used fairly frequently, although their use is quite clunky and often unevenly balanced.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

A dishevelled trailer that haphazardly throws bits of the film together without particularly selling it. Presented in a non-16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Image Gallery

14 assorted images from the film. A pointless addition.

Eastern Eye Trailers (2:19)

Trailers for four other Madman releases can be selected after a skippable anti-piracy trailer. The trailers are for: A Bittersweet Life, No Mercy For The Rude, Volcano High and Tokyo Drifter.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

A Dirty Carnival is available in Region 1 on a disc that misses the extras on the Region 4 edition and presents the film itself with in an even further cropped pan-and-scan image than the Region 4 edition.

Several editions have been released throughout Region 3, the most noteworthy being a 2-disc special edition in Korea. The 2-disc Korean edition features English subtitles for the feature, but not any of the special features, making them not worth consideration to any purchaser who does not speak Korean. The video transfer on the Korean edition is reportable of a good quality, however we do not have a copy for direct comparison.


A muddled and somewhat overlong Asian gangster film. The good bits are very good, the rest is muddled melodrama. Rent this one before entertaining thoughts of buying it.

The video transfer is rather poor for a recent film and is riddled with edge enhancement artefacts. The sound is a far from the best surround mix you are likely to hear, but is certainly adequate. There are no substantial extras on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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