“We have recently acquired two new female individuals that you will find pleasing.”
The romantic film is a heavily used genre for monetary purposes, similar to action movies for women in terms of popularity. Therefore, it is intriguing to see a film taking on this theme but attempting to stand out. Ougie Pak’s movie revolves around Asian Americans employed at a hostess bar.
Kev is employed at a bar where he takes on various roles such as bartending, driving the hostesses home, and even cleaning the restrooms after closing. His employers hold him in high regard and he is content with his life, despite being unattached. However, when a new employee named Kiki enters his life, things take a different turn as she openly flirts with him. This prompts Kev to break the club’s strict policy against employees dating.
During the 50-minute duration of the film, Ougie Pak does not necessarily revitalize the genre, but still incorporates several distinctive features that set the movie apart. One notable aspect is the absence of the often tiresome ‘will-they, won’t-they’ trope, with both adults clearly knowing their desires and not hesitating to pursue them. This is also where the movie’s twist is revealed, as Kiki’s composed demeanor ultimately leads to frustration on Kev’s part and inevitably sparks feelings of jealousy.
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In addition to this aspect, Pak also sheds light on social issues within Asian-American communities. Specifically, he highlights the experiences of bar employees, particularly women, who often seek out wealthy patrons in hopes of improving their lives. This use of sex or other sexual tactics to achieve their goals, along with the bar’s role as a means of making money, serves as a practical commentary on an often overlooked aspect of AAPI life in the United States, seldom depicted in cinema.
Yung-Jen Yang’s cinematography effectively captures the atmosphere of the hostess club, but the overly bright and polished approach can become tiresome as the film progresses. Some scenes, paired with the music, give off a TV show or commercial vibe. Kev Tai (who is also the script writer) does a convincing job as Kev, and the same can be said for Mona Arkin as Kiki. While the tension scenes could have been executed better by the actors, overall the film is successful to a certain extent. Pak’s editing creates a brisk pace that complements the overall aesthetics, and the 50-minute runtime is suitable for the story at hand.
“Red Card” has its faults, cinematically in particular, but Ougie Park proves he knows how to tell his story and present his comments, which makes the whole thing definitely worth watching, also because in the particular duration, it definitely does not overextend its welcome.