Indie filmmaking is all about the right tool for the right job, and though his 2015 Man Up was in color, writer-director Justin Chon shot his follow-up Gook in glorious high-contrast black-and-white. Eli (Chon) and Daniel (David So) are bickering Korean-American brothers who run a South Central Los Angeles women’s shoe store founded by their late father. The closest thing to an employee they have is Kamilla (Simone Baker), an 11-year-old Black girl who regularly hangs out with them — a fact she tries to hide from gangbanging older brother Keith (Curtiss Cook Jr.).
Complicating matters is that it’s Apr. 29, 1992, the day of the Rodney King verdict and subsequent riots. This gives the second half a mounting sense of Purge-like dread as we’re repeatedly told that there are no police coming, yet it’s known that over 2,200 Asian-owned businesses were attacked that night. But Gook is not without joy, nor does it lack lovely images, including what may be the best automotive doughnut scene ever. There’s also a deliberate shout-out to Clerks via a pair of supporting characters, one of whom is called “Silent” (and it’s notable that Chon’s character in Man Up was a slacker named Randall). Gook is a movie that’s very aware of its history, both good and bad.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.