Drama Review: The Liar Game (2014)

This show. THIS SHOW. I can't even *gasp*.

I am not a fan girl given to squeeing, but the television drama, Liar Game, has reduced me to squeeing. A masterpiece of brilliant puzzle-solving, an insightful foray into human psychology, superb acting, and feet-on-toes edge-of-chair mystery -- I am simply amazed by this show.

This 2014 Korean drama is based on a manga of the same name by Shinobu Kaitani. Although its 2007 Japanese version came first, I like the Korean version far better (though the Japanese series did have better soundtrack), as it feels more mature, less over-the-top, more believable and easier to digest. The plot revolves around Nam Da Jung, a young miss goody-two-shoes who gets tricked into joining a reality TV show called the "Liar Game". The game was started as a new move to up the ratings of a dying TV channel in Korea, and revolves around the contestants trying to con each other into losing money -- with the final winner receiving a $9+ million cash prize. Nam Da Jung starts off as fairly Mary Sue-ish, entering the game to pay off her father's debt against the loan sharks but being an easy target for all the deception around her. But soon, her character arc takes a dynamic turn, making her evolve into a formidable game contestant. Of course, she's not completely without help -- assisting her is the notorious psychology teacher and swindler, Professor Ha Woo Jin.

The Professor is another intriguing character. A silence-is-golden brooder by nature, he has a dark past, and recently got released from prison where he was serving a sentence for murder. At first, he doesn't want to help Nam Da Jung, but a sudden revelation makes him change his plans and enter the game. And boy, are we glad he does! Examining behavioral aspects of probability, voting polls, smuggling, card tricks, gambling et. al., Professor Ha shows us how some genius math and psychology solutions for seemingly trivial problems that turn the tables on the game.

But while solving maths puzzles -- or watching them get solved -- is great FUN, the real star of this show is the game host, Kang Do Young. What twisted motive made him come up with television show? Was it merely to teach people that they should not trust anyone, or does he have some personal vendetta that's been fulminating in his blood over the years? And what has Nam Da Jung got to do with it, or for that matter, Professor Ha? Kang Do Young on screen is the most charismatic, cunning and intriguing villain that I have seen in many years -- he both repels you and pulls on your pity, a truly marvellous feat.

If you don't have a problem with watching foreign films or shows with English subtitles, then Liar Game is a must watch for you. Merely 12 episodes long, dark and brainy, stylishly directed and enacted -- Liar Game is an art form. I can't recommend it more enthusiastically than that.

Rating: 10/10

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Manga Version is the best.