Director: Kang Hyeong-cheol (강형철)
Runtime: 133 min
Cast: Do Kyung-Soo (도경수), Jared Grimes Oh Jung-Se (오정세), Kim Min-Ho (김민호)
It’s a year into the Korean war, and Geoje Island in the southeast of Korean peninsula is housing a prisoner-of-war camp.
The camp is run by American troops and its chief, General Roberts, decides that the camp could use a PR stunt to improve its public image and boost the morale within the camp’s barbed-wire walls. The general enlists the help of Sergeant Jackson (Jared Grimes); the latter is to form a dance troupe with prisoners as members, teach them to tap dance and stage a Christmas production that will wow everyone present. The mission seems impossible at first, especially since there isn’t much promising talent to be found even at the audition Jackson organizes, but eventually, he identifies five individuals who show promise – even though some are more willing to take part in this project than others.
The only female member is a civilian Yang Pan Rae (Park Hye Soo), who earns her place in the group through being a translator first and then working her way to becoming a dancer with the help of her immense musical talent. Then there is the chubby Chinese soldier Xiao Pang (Kim Min Ho), who may lack stamina, but packs some serious moves. There is also a South Korean prisoner, Kang Byung Sam (Oh Jung Se), who got stuck in the prison by accident and is doing his best to find his missing wife. The most unwilling member of the group is, of course, the one by far the most talented – the North Korean soldier with a background as a dancer and a war hero for a brother, Roh Ki-soo (Doh Kyung-soo). There are many tests and trials, and the horrid reality of war perpetually dances a mere step away from the group, while politics and prison rebellion work their way in from behind the stage, but the five dancers find and seize precious moments of beauty in dance.
Swing Kids is a 2018 musical dramedy film, directed by Kang Hyeong Cheol. It is based on the musical “Roh Ki Soo” by Jang Woo-sung, and Kang firmly grasped the musical format and reflected it in the general setting of the film – the musical vibe is ever present, and the feeling of expanded theater stage cannot be denied. The music numbers (and the great soundtrack) make a viewer itch to get up and join the dance, or by the very least, make a person tap their fingers along with the beats. Even though tap dance and Korea have few points in common, it is undeniable that the cast has immense natural talent for this type of dance in real life, as well; Kang must have put a lot of thought in casting. Here, two people are especially fierce and made to shine – Park Hye Soo as Yang Pan Rae, and Doh Kyung-soo (EXO’s D.O.) as Roh Ki-soo. Both singers once again prove that they are also truly talented dancers. On top of that, every frame of the film’s musical numbers serves as a proof of how hard the entire cast had to have trained – and the final result is both entertaining and breathtaking.