Justin Chon | USA | 2017 | Rated 14A | English, Korean with English subtitles
Synopsis: Eli (Justin Chon) and Daniel (David So), two Korean American brothers, own a struggling shoe store and have an unlikely friendship with Kamilla (Simone Baker), a street smart 11-year-old African American girl. Kamilla ditches school, Eli stresses about the store, and Daniel seems to always be looking for a good time. It is another typical day at the store until the Rodney King verdict is read and riots break out. With chaos and potential trouble looming, the trio is forced to defend the store while contemplating the future of their own personal dreams and the true meaning of family.
My Thoughts: I read about this film when I saw it was coming to Reel Asian, and realized it won the audience award at Sundance. No surprise there.
Although its title may be provocative, it makes sense while watching the film. There is more to the story of Eli, Daniel, and Kamilla than we know at the beginning. As the plot moves forward, the layers are peeled back, and we see the connection between their two families. We also see the tension across the various cultural groups in the area. If you know anything about L.A. in the 90s, you’d understand the need to include this in the overall story. The film tackles serious themes, which for some may be uncomfortable, but necessary in my opinion.
A shout-out goes to the main cast. There is clearly good rapport among the cast, and as such, their characters are believable.
The tension of the Rodney King verdict, and the chaotic/stressful energy are apparent throughout. Chon, as writer and director, tries to balance all these elements in the story. It is not an easy feat, but it works well in this film. The film is from the point of view of the brothers mainly, a younger generation of Korean-Americans. It is time to hear these voices; tell their version of their stories.