Streaming round-up: Money Heist: Korea, Only Murders in the Building, Under the Banner of Heaven

Streaming round-up: Money Heist: Korea, Only Murders in the Building, Under the Banner of Heaven

A Korean take on a streaming phenomenon, a comedic spin on the murder mystery, and an intense crime thriller

Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area (Netflix)

MONEY Heist (or La Casa de Papel for the Spanish-inclined), which wrapped up after five seasons (or parts, as they were known) back in December, was a big deal, one of Netflix’s non-English language hits that transcended borders, paving the way for shows like Lupin and Squid Game to connect with global audiences.

And of course, Korean entertainment has established themselves as a consistent source of quality content. So it’s kind of a no-brainer for algorithm minded Netflix to combine both of these flavours into one show.

Set in the near future – about the year 2026 – peace has arrived on the Korean peninsula, with both the north and south on the way towards unification. A lot of this is waved off in the first 15 minutes or so and is pretty vague. Apparently, the Kim ‘dynasty’ that has been ruling North Korea since the end of World War Two, just vanished and are replaced by generic political types. Either way, what’s important is that a new currency is being developed, and that’s the target of the titular heist.

One thing that needs to be established is that this Money Heist is a Korean remake of the original, therefore the events of the first show did not take place. This feels like a missed opportunity of sorts. There could have been a Money Heist expanded universe of connected shows, but that’s probably easier said than done.

As a remake it repeats plenty of what came before. Like the original, the story is narrated by a femme fatale (Jeon Jong-seo), who also goes by Tokyo, who is also a criminal on the run. The difference is this time she’s a former North Korean soldier.

All the characters also have the same names as those in the original – you would think they would at least think of changing up the cities. Once again, they are all brought together by a mysterious Professor who has a very detailed plan. And at the bank, plenty of sub-plots should also be familiar to fans of the original.

That’s kind of the issue with Money Heist: Korea in general, despite Korean flourishes like their traditional masks, name dropping BTS a bunch and the geopolitical dressing, it feels too much like the original. There’s not a lot here that is truly new and fresh. But given its success on Netflix’s charts we can probably expect a few more seasons.

Only Murders in the Building (Disney+ Hotstar)

Given all the dark and serious shows, as well as the big budget superhero entertainment out there, the light and breezy, though sometimes complicated (in a fun way), Only Murders in the Building was a great change of pace.

Starring comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short, and popstar/actress Selena Gomez, as true crime podcast fans who find themselves investigating a murder – while recording a podcast on it – the first season was a surprise in how each episode would have a well done plot twist, while maintaining a rapid fire comedic sensibility.

Martin plays a retired TV star, who’s living in the past and is unlucky in love. Short is a former theatre director whose career was a failure and is considered a joke, but don’t tell him that because he’s a little full of himself. He’s also broke and lives off of dip. Gomez’s character drove the first season, attempting to solve a crime from her youth. Together they live in the same building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan filled with offbeat characters.

Crime shows and murder mysteries have always been popular, but very few attempt to be equal parts comedy. A big part of the success of the Only Murders lies in the chemistry between the three leads. Steve Martin and Martin Short have been working together since the ‘80s, quite literally before Gomez was born. She holds her own and the generational comedy is well done and not cliched.

The mystery, at least for the first season (the first two episodes of season two came out this week) was also well done, with twists and turns perfectly paced to keep you interested. There’s an edge to the language and situations that keep it grounded in the believable, despite how silly the characters can get.

Under the Banner of Heaven (Disney+ Hotstar)

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Under the Banner of Heaven, a grim and intense crime thriller based on a true story. Set in the US state of Utah, the heart of the Mormon religion, the miniseries follows Detective Jeb Pyre, played by Andrew Garfield, a Mormon himself, who investigates a brutal murder that has him questioning his deeply held faith.

From the jump, the filmmaking style and the tone of the show recalls the first season of HBO’s True Detective. It’s atmospheric, deeply unsettling and all too real. Unlike that series, this is closer to reality, though of course there are plenty of fictional embellishments. The ‘80s time period in a place in the US where shows are not typically set helps set it apart from other crime dramas as well.

The show is anchored by Garfield, who recently reprised his role as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you’re only familiar with him in his blockbuster roles you might be surprised by the intensity he brings to this character. The murder he investigates implicates a powerful Mormon family that’s loaded with actors like Sam Worthington and Wyatt Russell. His partner, Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham), who as a Native American and the only non-White person in the police department, brings an outside perspective to the case.

For many people outside the US, they might be unfamiliar to the Mormon religion. Very rarely does Hollywood (Western entertainment in general) portray openly religious characters, and usually they are the butt of the joke. Here, the question is whether they are too strongly treating Mormonism as a nefarious ‘other’. How do you separate radical fundamentalists from the religion at large?

While there are a number of episodes out already to binge, the show’s intensity can be a lot at times. But it’s not trying to be a piece of entertainment like the two above, asking deeper questions and tangling with some heavier ideas.

source – The Vibes

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