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By Brad Wilke | April 14, 2009

Jong W. Lee’s “Roses Have Thorns” is a derivative romantic drama that could easily be classified as the first Korean entry into the “mumblecore” ghetto of current independent cinema.

Following a group of young lovers as they sleep around, make up, deceive and reconcile with each other, Lee’s film takes much inspiration from Wong Kar-wai. From the repetitive, almost hypnotic score to the shifting perspective of redundant episodes, Lee is a formalist who favors static takes and precise editing.

Too bad he didn’t find better actors to help him tell his story.

Fluctuating from amateurish at worst to summer stock at best, the ensemble cast struggles to convey even the most simple emotion. I hate to single someone out, but the actress who plays Rachel (I’ll leave her name out of the review) needs some serious remedial training.

Building his narrative around different colored roses, Lee attempts to create a single storyline comprised of multiple perspectives on the same events. This conceit quickly loses steam by the second iteration, as the viewer must do considerable work to find any sympathy for any of the main characters.

If Lee were able to focus his developing talents on conveying a more emotionally compelling story, I think he holds some real promise as a director. “Roses Have Thorns,” though, is not the best example of his potential.

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