Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Justin Chon|
James J. Yi
|Written by||Justin Chon|
Curtiss Cook Jr.
|Music by||Roger Suen|
Datari Turner Productions
Birthday Soup Films
|Distributed by||Samuel Goldwyn Films|
Gook is a 2017 American drama film written and directed by Justin Chon. It tells the story of two Korean-American brothers running their father's shoe store, and their unlikely friendship with a neighborhood 11-year-old black girl, during the first day of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The film stars Justin Chon, Simone Baker, David So, Sang Chon, Curtiss Cook Jr. and Ben Munoz. The film was released on August 18, 2017, by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Eli (Justin Chon) and Daniel (David So) are two Korean American brothers who own their late father's struggling shoe store in a predominantly African American community of Paramount, California. They have a unique and unlikely friendship with an 11-year-old African American girl, Kamilla (Baker). These three deal with hardships on a daily basis; Eli and Daniel face racism from African Americans and Hispanics, and Kamilla has a troubled family after the death of her mother some years earlier, who warn her to stay away from the shoe store. Kamilla is also constantly badgered by Mr. Kim (Sang Chon), who owns a liquor store near Eli and Daniel's shoe store; this leads to Eli often intervening on Kamilla's behalf, straining the relationship between Mr. Kim and Eli. Mr. Kim speaks to Eli in Korean and Eli replies primarily in English, and occasionally in Korean. On April 29th, 1992, the news of the day is focused on the pending Rodney King assault verdict, Kamilla ditches school and heads to the shoe store; Eli stresses about the store staying afloat, while Daniel tries to have a good time often disregarding the customers while dreaming of becoming a recording artist.
As the day passes, the verdict from the trial is read on the news, acquitting the officers for the beating of King. Because of this, racial tensions build to a breaking point in L.A. as the 1992 Los Angeles riots break out in nearby South Central Los Angeles. Daniel and Eli get into an argument over Daniel granting excessive discounts to customers, and Daniel leaves the store to record a demo tape. On the way to the recording studio, Daniel is jumped by Kamilla's brother Keith (Cook, Jr.) and his friends, who take his money and necklace. They only stop assaulting Daniel when Keith receives a message on his pager saying "free shit South Central", alluding to the nearby riots. Daniel proceeds to record his demo tape but cannot pay the owner of the studio due to being robbed. The studio owner convinces him to pay his debt by assisting him in looting at the riots. While driving through the riot areas, Daniel is pulled out of a car by rioters and assaulted again. He is later saved by Mr. Kim, who picks Daniel up in his van. Mr. Kim then discloses to Daniel that he served in the South Korean military with Eli and Daniel's father as part of the country's conscription law.
As day turns to night, Kamilla goes home and is found by Keith to have hung around at the shoe store because of a pair of Air Jordan sneakers that Eli gave to her earlier that day. After hearing her say they're better family than (Keith), Keith flies into a rage as Kamilla, Keith and Regina's mother's death was somehow caused by the Korean family that owned the store. Keith plots to round up his crew to rob Eli and Daniel's store of their remaining sneakers. Eli finds his car unable to start and is attempting to fix it, failing to do so when he finds out that he is out of gas. Shortly thereafter Mr. Kim returns with Daniel and Daniel and Eli argue briefly before Eli notices Mr Kim and attempts to argue with him before Mr. Kim defuses the situation with a cigarette as a peace offering. Kim then talks to Eli about when he and Eli's father started the shoe store and of how his father and Kamilla's mother died during a robbery at the shoe store, and how their lives weren't what they wanted to give their kids. After he leaves, Kamilla takes his other gun and runs to warn Eli and Daniel about Keith's intentions. Eli and Daniel argue over whether to remove the shoes from the premises or to surrender the shoes to Keith and lose the store, which is already two months behind on rent. Eli decides to stay behind to try to move the shoes, while Daniel and Kamilla leave. With his car unable to start, Eli packs up as many shoes as he can carry, but upon leaving the store, is robbed of the shoes at gunpoint by three Hispanic gang members, who had jumped Eli earlier that day.
Eli reunites with Daniel and Kamilla at a nearby restaurant. They encounter Jesus, a Hispanic man from their neighborhood who helped around the store, who gifts Eli with a gas can to fill up and start his car. Jesus also discloses to them that he put the Air Jordans on the roof. So the shoes Eli thought he was robbed of were in fact women's shoes in the Air Jordans boxes, and the Air Jordan sneakers were still at the shoe store, on the roof. Eli, Daniel, and Kamilla attempt to move the sneakers when Keith arrives, forcing them to hide on the roof. Eli decides to just throw down to them the shoes they came to steal, as he had decided to close the store and seek a new beginning. Keith is convinced by his friends to leave the shoe store but eventually returns and threatens to burn the store down with a gas can and Molotov cocktails. Kamilla, with Keith's other gun, runs out to fire a shot to keep them from burning down the store but trips as she exits and shoots herself. Keith's friends leave when they hear the shot, leaving Keith and Eli to take Kamilla to a nearby hospital. Keith has an emotional breakdown directed at Eli, then himself, and Eli stops him. Eli returns to the store in the morning and he shakes his head, letting Daniel know that Kamilla passed away. Eli tells Daniel to grab the Molotov cocktails that Keith left behind. Eli burns the store down. The final shot is the same as the first; the spirit of Kamilla dancing to the burning shoe store.
- Justin Chon as Eli
- Simone Baker as Kamilla
- David So as Daniel
- Sang Chon as Mr. Kim
- Curtiss Cook Jr. as Keith
- Ben Munoz as Jesus
- Omono Okojie as Regina
- Kirlew Vilbon as Bliss
- Chris Jai Alex as Ray
- Cesar Garcia as Cesar
- Isaiah Jarel as Curtis
- Trinecia Moore-Pernell as Vivian
- Natalie Sutherland as Nurse Gianni
- Taylor Thomas as Lisa
- Lando Wilkens as Joseph
The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2017. On April 19, 2017, Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired distribution rights to the film. The film was released on August 18, 2017, by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 94% based on 48 reviews, and an average rating of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "From its confrontational title to its striking cinematography, this raw cinematic gem uncompromisingly proves writer/director/actor Justin Chon is a filmmaker to watch." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
- "'Gook' Review". Hollywood Reporter. 2017-01-22. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
- "Gook (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
- Guy Lodge (2017-02-07). "'Gook' Review: Revisiting the L.A. Riots From a Fresh Perspective". Variety. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
- Hipes, Patrick (2017-04-19). "Justin Chon's 'Gook' Gets August Release In Samuel Goldwyn Films Deal". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
- "Gook (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
- "Gook (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- "Gook Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
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