Source: Carl Raw Unsplash

Long-time readers of The Game of Nerds know that we’re big fans of Korean cinema. Whether it’s tragedy or comedy, South Korean filmmakers have a distinct and extremely effective way of pulling at our heartstrings. Such is the case with Tazza: The High Rollers, a 2006 classic that even today remains one of South Korea’s highest-grossing films. From the start, it’s easy to see why this film is considered a classic in the annals of Korean cinema.

The premise is nothing but pure intensity. A man loses his sister’s alimony payments by being swindled by professional card players. With nothing left to lose, he goes on a rampage that gets him the attention of other significant players in the story. In a Kill Bill-esque twist, the man spends several months training with an old master of sleight-of-hand, preparing for a swindle of his own, one that would allow him to get his money back. He manages to pull it off, lose the money, get it back, and lose it again – obviously a metaphor for how these games work in the real world. The film is fueled by well-acted drama and comedy, intense action sequences, and the unbeatable pairing of Kim Hye-soo and Cho Seung-woo.

Tazza is definitely a roller coaster ride, albeit a rather long one – two and a half hours long to be exact. And you’ll actually feel it being that long. Not that it’s a boring movie – it’s definitely not, there’s just too much downtime in between the many set piece sequences. Despite the tendency to slowdown in the middle, Tazza is still a solid two and a half hours of action-packed entertainment. A must-see classic, especially for fans and students of multi-genre, casino-themed cinema.

The popularity of casino films is no coincidence in Asia where the casino industry has been booming for decades. Tazza is just one of the many casino-themed Asian movies released between the latter end of the 20th century and today, a list that includes classics like 1989’s Casino Raiders and 2015’s From Vegas to Macau. This popularity of casinos in Asian cinema is in fact a direct reflection of the popularity of the casino industry itself in the entire region.

Macau and Singapore are internationally known for having some of the most luxurious, high-stakes casinos in the world. Vietnam has a booming casino industry that is growing. Expatbets’ extensive guide to Vietnam’s casinos explains that there are already 30 in the country. Meanwhile, in South Korea where Tazza originated, there are 23 casinos, although. USA Today reports that it’s illegal for locals to play in them except for one casino that’s far from the capital – yet another reason why casino-themed cinema appeals greatly to South Koreans.

In the last couple of decades, the casino theme has been rocked and remixed in cinemas countless times. Tazza isn’t exactly original, but it’s a modern noir film that looks and sounds good. It’s simply South Korea taking the style and aesthetic of the casino theme to its peak. An awesome movie for capping off a fun and lazy weekend.