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Review: Infectious South Korean musical ‘Swing Kids’ finds a good beat

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Jared Grimes, left, and Kyung-soo Do in the movie “Swing Kids.”
(Well Go USA)

Like any good hoofer, the South Korean musical “Swing Kids” is eager to please, relying on both subtly graceful moves and aggressive razzle-dazzle. Though a bit longer than necessary, the movie tells an engaging, enjoyable story, peppered with impressive dance numbers.

“Swing Kids” stars K-pop idol Do Kyung-soo (a.k.a. “D.O.”) as Ro Ki-soo, a North Korean POW in a camp populated by fiery radicals, guarded by bigoted American soldiers. Jared Grimes plays Jackson, a black G.I. who in the States was an aspiring Broadway dancer, but struggled to find work because of his race.

When Jackson gets assigned to teach a handful of Korean War prisoners to tap for a Christmas party (to impress the visiting international press), he’s drawn to Ki-soo, who shows impressive moves doing traditional Russian marches. What Jackson doesn’t know is that his new student has been drafted by his Communist superiors to assassinate one of the top American brass.

Writer-director Kang Hyeong-cheol knows how to hold a viewer’s attention, having made two of the highest-grossing Korean films of all time. Here, he balances political intrigue with heartwarming scenes of bonding over dance; and he guides it all to an emotional ending.

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It’s those big musical sequences that’ll have audiences skipping out of the theater. Whatever their ideological differences, whenever the characters are anachronistically zooming around to David Bowie’s “Modern Love” or stomping onstage to Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing,” their enthusiasm is infectious.

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‘Swing Kids’

In Korean with English subtitles

Not rated

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Running time: 2 hours, 13 minutes

Playing: CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles; CGV Cinemas, Buena Park

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