Depicted in a 1950s war-stricken Geoje Island, Swing Kids balances the harsher reality of wars with the excitement of dance. If there’s one way to describe this film, I would say that Swing Kids is akin to a war-based version of Step Up.
During this period of unrest, POWs and military personnel from 4 different countries come together and find freedom in dancing thanks to their unexpected passion for tap dance. That is, until reality strikes and they are rudely awakened from their blissful dream.
The film starts off with Roh Ki-soo (played by Doh Kyung-soo), a North Korean soldier placed in the Geoje camp and is well known amongst the civilians as the brother of a famous war hero.
Enter Jackson (played by Jared Grimes), a former Broadway dancer dispatched to Korea after being unwillingly separated from his Okinawan girlfriend.
In area where racism and nationalist ideologies run rampant, Jackson gets tasked by General Roberts (played by Ross Kettle) to form a tap dance team in an effort to boost the reputation of the camp.
Using a ticket to Okinawa as a bait, Jackson begrudgingly agrees but is faced with a hurdle of problems. Not only was he having a hard time finding the right people for the job, but he was also being treated like a second-class citizen by the people from his very own country.
As the film progresses, the situation gets more dire and both him and Roh Ki-soo face various moral dilemmas as the Christmas performance approaches. The pressure increases when they are taunted with the idea of not seeing their family again.
While watching the film, Swing Kids once again reminds us that dance and music are both a universal language that can help people put aside their differences. Though they have different end-goals in mind, once the music turns on, wartime politics are long forgotten (albeit temporarily) and the show begins.
At the height of this film, it emphasizes the potential disasters war can bring but it also proves to us that friendship can triumph over political ideologies.
That being said, the unexpected comedic elements that happen sporadically added a nice momentum to the film. Without it, Swing Kids would have been too draggy and boring because there wasn’t much of a climax the viewers could look forward to.
As someone who has never watch Director Kang Hyong-chul’s work before, there is no basis for me to compare but I think this film could’ve done a little bit better because it was just missing that little something.
Though nothing too major, there were a few minor plot holes and loose ends that weren’t tied up well. Though a tad bit unsatisfactory, Swing Kids also did a great job at reminding us that reality is far from a fairy tale thanks to its abrupt (yet kinda expected) twist at the end that is sure to leave you both sad and speechless.
Nonetheless, the cast (including Park Hye-su, Oh Jung-se, and Kim Min-ho) did a great job pulling off their characters and difficult choreographies.
Seeing as they were in sync and dancing for at least one-third of the film, a lot of hard work must have gone into it so props to them for pulling it off. Not only was it visually pleasing, but the taps were also a pleasant sound to listen to, the entire thing could’ve been a musical on its own.
Additionally, the choice of music and the cinematography is worth another praise of its own. Not only did the songs complement the film’s vibes outstandingly well, but the cinematography was also on point, and did a great job in capturing the unorthodox beauty and tense atmosphere of the 1950s.
Overall, Swing Kids is a great movie to watch with your family and friends this season. If you like something musical and funny (but with a hint of darkness), this is a film you should watch!
Actor’s Appeal: ★★★★☆
Sense of Satisfaction:★★★★☆
Swing Kids is now showing in Singapore cinemas. Watch the official trailer and find out more about the film here:
(Photo Credits: Golden Village Picture, Naver Movies)