Funny answers to silly questions are the prize in the overcrowded but amusing comedy-thriller “The Quiz Show Scandal,” the latest offering from South Korean writer-director Jang Jin (“Righteous Ties,” “Good Morning President”). Large ensemble cast entertains as a gallery of ambitious quizshow contestants, but Jang floods his yarn with more subsidiary characters than the running time can sustain. On the Korean peninsula, “Quiz Show” made a disappointing $4 million in September, where it duked it out with popular local thrillers, including the still-feisty “The Man From Nowhere.”
Pic spends its first 20 minutes introducing a wide array of characters, all of whom collide in a four-car pileup on a Seoul highway. The whole lot are hauled to the police station for interrogation — including gangster Lee Do-yeop (Kim Su-ro) and his trigger-happy henchman Park Sang-gil (Han Jae-seok), who are hiding a corpse in their car trunk. The only fatality is an unknown femme pedestrian.
Things come into focus when it’s discovered the dead woman worked for the country’s most prestigious monthly quizshow. Thanks to the techno smarts of college genius Do Ji-yong (Lee Ji-yong), who sorts through the dead woman’s possessions, everyone sees the answers to questions scheduled to be asked on the upcoming $13 million jackpot episode. Figuring the woman’s death was a suicide, the cops set everyone free, and the survivors scheme and study to get on the show.
Eventually, the pic dives into another extended setpiece: the quizshow itself. With contestants mostly consisting of those from the opening traffic accident, the yarn builds with delicious comic suspense to the final question. A key revelation about the show’s stingy producers adds to the tension.
It’s a great concept, and Jang handles his talented ensemble with a superb sense of fun. At its best, the screenplay is reminiscent of the excellent juggling acts he performed with multiple characters in previous scripts, for example in “The Hot Roof” and “Welcome to Dongmokol” (helmed by Lee Min-yong and Park Kwang-hyun respectively), or Jang’s own “Good Morning President.”
In this instance, however, Jang doesn’t quite know when to stop. He continues to add ridiculous elements — such as a wacky wild-card round of contestants quizzing each other as a way of quickly winnowing down the prize contenders — when the pic should have been narrowing its focus. Characters introduced during the final 45 minutes, including a trio of quizshow fans and flabbergasted tube technicians, are funny enough in their own right but feel superfluous.
Lensing is topnotch, production values slick.