KTown Cowboys (R)

Comedy 83 min. March 18, 2016
By Diana Clarke
Ktown Cowboys indicates by its title both insider status and a desire to fit in. Ktown -- short for Koreatown -- refers to the Los Angeles neighborhood marked by art-deco buildings and Korean signage where the film is set. The cowboys of Ktown are both proudly Korean and quintessentially American, a tension they wrestle with throughout.

These "cowboys" grew up here. Danny is a financier-turned-comedian. Jason has inherited his wealthy father's business. Sunny helps his dad, who suffers from encroaching Alzheimer's, run a liquor store. Peter is a bouncer-turned-designer, and Robby was adopted by white parents who push Korean culture on both him and his white girlfriend. These dynamics inspire rich material: a drunken confrontation between Jason and Sunny over their differing financial situations; Peter's violent posturing in a bar fight and his bizarre treatment of film star Ken Jeong, whom the friends meet in a restaurant; Robby's anger at his parents and wondering whether to teach in South Korea; the meandering conversations that give shape to these lives and friendships. When was the last time you saw a film by and about Korean-American men centering themselves?

Unfortunately, the film and its protagonists are too busy partying to really explore that subject matter. Ktown is full of late-night clubs and karaoke bars that provide a slick, pulsing backdrop to the friends' antics, but drunkenness on its own is boring, and the men's humor is childish, outdated, sexist, fatphobic, racist and homophobic. Like the partying, that could be used to make or mean something, but it's not -- it's just there for laughs. Like its country of origin, there's a lot to love in this film, but a lot that's hateful too.
Daniel Park Lanny Joon, Danny Cho, Sunn Wee, Peter Jae, Bobby Choy, Shane Yoon Danny Cho Freestyle Releasing

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