“A top-notch thriller from Korea, Bargain will haunt the viewer long after the credits roll. But it certainly isn’t for everyone.”
Are you prepared to make the Bargain?
Going in to watch the Korean series, you expect to know what it entails and what lies ahead. You’d be seriously mistaken. The series is something that is hard to quantify, an enigma that is an assault on our senses. You could be forgiven for thinking this is just another series that will pull back from the edge at the right time, and not go to places that you personally wouldn’t want to enter. Again, you’d be wrong. The series isn’t afraid to shock and surprise the audience in the direction it goes down. And it will certainly shock some members of the audience with some of its frankness.
In Bargain, men are lured to a remote hotel under the guise of sexual encounters only to be caught in a trafficking ring where their organs are auctioned off to the highest bidder. After a catastrophic earthquake, the victims, traffickers and buyers all are trapped inside the crumbling building. Cut off from the outside world, they must fight to survive the aftermath at any cost.
NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH OR EASILY DISTURBED
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s more to come. The series is one that the audience must follow to fully understand what is going on at all times. The narrative shifts back and forth, forcing the viewer to watch as closely as possible, in case they miss something vital. A brief shot here, a snippet of dialogue there. But combining it all makes the series all the more gripping. It isn’t afraid to pull the rug from under your feet, it positively rips it out, forcing you to fall onto your backside. And some of the visuals will have viewers reaching for a vomit bucket. Bargain isn’t for the squeamish or those who are easily offended or disturbed.
Take the opening for example. It starts off so innocently. A young woman sits alone, smoking, in a remote hotel room. A knock at the door sees a well-dressed man enter the room. After some chit-chat between the pair, the conversation takes a turn we don’t see coming. The girl says she’s sixteen. And she has offered the man the chance to take her virginity for the sum of $1000. We are extremely disturbed by this chain of events and change of direction. We are then presented with discussions of a very sexual nature. I shan’t divulge what is said but it may be too strong for some viewers. At the very least, it shocks us to hear a frank and open discussion of this kind.
A SET UP
The girl can’t keep her story straight. And some inconsistencies and items of clothing give her away. The man is outraged at this deception, refusing to pay the girl the $1000 promised, instead offering a derisory sum. The girl accepts, telling the man to go take a shower to get ready. The man complies, leaving the girl to leave the room and walk the hallway of the hotel, smoking. As she starts to return, she enters another room. Here, we discover the truth. It is all a scam. There are many young women inside the room, and all are offering the same deal to unsuspecting men. As the woman leaves to return to her room, we discover the real reason they are running this scheme.
Inside the room is a large crowd of people, all holding numbered paddles in their hands. We now come across the man, stripped to his underwear, bound and gagged upright to a hospital table. All of his vital organs have been marked with a felt tip pen. We now realize that this is an underground auction for the man’s organs. As the people bid on the organs offered, the start of which is a kidney, we learn the rules of the auction. The winning bid for the first organ will be the starting part for the next. After a ruckus between the gathered, a rumble occurs. Calming the crowd down, the girl proceeds with the auction. Suddenly, the hotel is shaken apart by a large earthquake.
I shall leave it there. But what I can say is that the series then turns into something unexpected. It follows the well-trodden path of people trying to escape from a crumbling, dangerous building. But it turns out to be far more than that. The full extent of what is going on and the aftermath unfolds like peeling the layers from an onion. Just when you think you’ve finished, another layer presents itself. And it keeps us gripped to our seats as events twist and turn. And there are plenty of moments and scenes that will continue to haunt the viewer after the episode ends.
Jeon Jong-Seo as Park Joo Young is extraordinary. The young South Korean actress has us eating out of her hand as the seemingly innocent woman. But she comes across as strong-willed and committed to her job but with a surprising streak of vulnerability to her. It is an incredible performance. The same has to be said for Jin Sun-Kyu as Noh Hyung-Soo. He portrays the character, at first as a sleazy almost pedophilic character. But later on, it is revealed that he isn’t what he says he is and is hiding a secret. One that throws everything into doubt. Both play their characters extremely well and make for the perfect foil for each other as main characters.
A top-notch thriller from Korea, Bargain will haunt the viewer long after the credits roll. But it certainly isn’t for everyone. Its mix of thrills, violence, sexual discussions and some nasty moments will leave some viewers not being able to get the full enjoyment from the series. Some parts of it will have viewers hating it, clutching the arms of their seats, or chewing their fingernails in tension. It certainly will divide its audience. But I advise you to stick with it. There are more surprises to come as we move through the episodes. Some people may turn it off as it isn’t in English and will get distracted from reading the subtitles. But they will be missing a real treat.
The series has won numerous awards over the past year. And it isn’t hard to see why. It is something that we haven’t really seen before and is totally original. It is also completely gripping. The series is well thought out, brilliantly acted, superbly plotted, and a marvellous series for those late nights when there are no children around. The tension keeps building up until it is so tight, you fear what will make it break. Make no mistake, the series is a rarity, something that is a must-see. Grab a drink, sit back, switch off the lights, take a deep breath and let it play. It truly is a bargain of a series.
The complete series of Bargain is now currently streaming on Paramount+
Trailer Source: Paramount+ UK
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