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Go Go 70s
Go Go 70s

The Devils rock out in Go Go 70s.
Korean: 고고70
Year: 2008  

Choi Ho


Choi Ho


Cho Seung-Woo, Sin Min-Ah, Cha Seung-Woo, Song Kyung-Ho, Choi Min-Chul, Kim Min-Goo, Hong Kwang-Ho, Lee Sung-Min, Kim Soo-Jeong, Yoon Chae-Yeon, Lim Yeong-Sik

  The Skinny:

Choi Ho's Korean take of the musical biopic shines when it comes to capturing the excitement of 70s Go Go music, but it doesn't have enough drama and characters to sustain its momentum.

Kevin Ma:

Credit should be given to Korean writer-director Choi Ho for trying not to make the same film twice. From the modern drug-addled young adults of Bye, June to the gangster drama of A Bloody Tie, Choi has clearly made an effort to try new topics with every film. His fourth film, Go Go 70s, is his attempt at a Korean version of a music biopic. Based on a true story, Go Go 70s follows the trials and tribulations of The Devils, a soul band from an army town who go to Seoul and end up leading the so-called "Go Go" movement of the mid-70s.

Even though Go Go 70s does follow a structure similar to a typical music biopic, Choi makes the welcome move of actually skirting around the stereotypical drug-induced downfalls. Choi keeps his focus on the drama between the band members as opposed to their individual demons, and tries to tell a story about what music means to its characters. The problem with such a structure is that the band takes a central presence as a group and not as a combination of individual characters, causing the film to ultimately lack the dramatic momentum that would keep audiences involved.

The closest thing to a central character is Sang-Gyu (Cho Seung-Woo), who becomes the temperamental, arrogant bandleader and lead vocalist of The Devils by merging his own band with another band led by Man-Sik (real-life indie rocker Cha Seung-Woo). Playing in a small army base town, the group, along with groupie/aspiring singer Mimi (Sin Min-Ah, faring far better than her lead role in My Mighty Princess), decides to try for stardom by joining a band competition in Seoul, where the youth have yet to be exposed to American soul music.

Even though The Devils fail to find an appreciative audience with the general public, they find a fan in popular music columnist Byung-Wook (Lee Sung-Min). With the city under midnight curfew, Byung-Wook decides to take advantage of the situation by opening a midnight music club that opens only during curfew hours, and The Devils become one of its headlining bands. Despite the soul band's early unpopularity at the club, the addition of Mimi as a dancer (with strips of duct tape attached to her arm to complete her look) helps the Devils' popularity soar, officially starting the trend of Go Go music. But as your typical music biopic would tell you, with popularity comes conflict and even trouble from the military dictatorship government, who end up condemning such music as decadent.

Go Go 70s work best when Choi focuses on the music. Even though the music, comprised mostly of Korean covers of well-known American soul music, is average at best, Choi captures the live performances in a dynamic fashion, keeping the camera active within the crowd to give it an effective, "you are there" feeling that turns Go Go 70s temporarily into a concert film. A scene in a recording studio with the band jamming is also captured in natural fashion that transforms the actors, who never truly embody their roles in the dramatic scenes, into convincing musicians. These scenes are not only convincing in making the audience believe that this band of mostly professional actors are actually musicians, but also that Choi should've made Go Go 70s in the style of a music documentary instead of a straightforward dramatic work.

Also, whenever the film puts its focus on the group members (especially the inevitable band split), the drama often falls flat. The suggested romance between Mimi and Sang-Gyu is simply ignored halfway through the film, and the audience probably won't care about Man-Sik and Sang-Gyu's clashing egos because neither of them is particularly likeable or convincing as characters. Meanwhile, since the other members never get the chance to come into their own, the most dramatic twist in the story - which involves one of these characters - fails to make the emotional impact it tries for.

Nevertheless, Choi wisely steers away from the music biopic clichés to tell a story that's uniquely Korean. Choi reminds the audience that the film is ultimately about the meaning of music to these people by spending a large portion of the third act with the government persecution of Go Go musicians. While the depiction of the police's torture technique is effective without going over the top, Choi cops out. He never shows the consequences of The Devils' act of defiance against the government crackdown, and instead tries to end the film on a high note. Still, Choi makes the music worth caring about. Even though Go Go 70s is not fully effective as a drama with convincing characters, at least it's satisfying as a music film. (Kevin Ma, 2009)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Media
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray disc

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