Suits, auctions, a rare diamond, and… a group of daring thieves?
Sounds like it’s time for a heist.
Monsta X has returned with a new EP, “One of a Kind,” with the title track, “Gambler.” The group takes full advantage of their sophisticated bass-driven track to present a music video that explores and subverts a typical heist storyline.
Heists are a popular trope that have been reimagined countless times in popular culture. Going all the way back to the 1900s with the popularity of Phantom Thief Lupin, the story of ragtag thieves outwitting authority has always captivated the world. Just think of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Inception, or Now You See Me.
A typical heist storyline follows a tried and tested structure: 1) The Plan, 2) The Team, 3) Pulling it Off, 4) The Twist, 5) Success. Each part comes with established tropes that make this formula so successful. At the beginning of every heist movie, the plan has to be set, typically with some kind of near-impossible goal or achievement. After that, it’s all about the leader gathering their team members and preparing for the heist itself. During the heist, there has to be some kind of crazy twist that puts the plan in jeopardy—that is, until the team overcomes it and swans off to enjoy their success.
In the music video for “Gambler,” however, Monsta X subverts these expectations with varying degrees of success. For one, the storyline for the music video kicks off in the middle of the heist rather than the beginning. Each member begins to play out their individual roles, with Joohoney confronting a tied up man in a hotel room and Minhyuk knocking out security guards. It’s only when Hyungwon stakes out a bar that the viewers see the goal of this heist: the rare MX0514 diamond.
With the auction room as the setting, Joohoney takes the place of the auctioneer (presumably, the tied up man from the beginning of the video) as the members join Shownu who is acting as the legitimate face of the operation. The climax comes as the timer Kihyun had previously set on electrical generators knocks out the city’s power, and the members walk out of the hotel with the diamond in hand.
However, by choosing to cut out the most interesting parts of a heist formula, Monsta X sacrifices tension for a bland (but beautiful) music video.
Firstly, their choice to begin in the middle of the heist rather than the beginning effectively guts any characterization. In media res—a term for beginning in the middle of the story—is a commonly used literary device to add suspense, but the appeal of a heist is watching well-loved tropes play out with fresh and new characters. In “Gambler,” the viewers don’t get a clear sense of the members’ motivations besides obtaining the diamond without the build up.
Additionally, the lack of a twist makes the music video less compelling. In a typical heist movie, something goes wrong in the middle of the plan, and this leads to the major twist—the climax. In the music video, everything plays out straightforwardly. Monsta X flawlessly steal invitations to the auction, confuse the other bidders, take out the electricity, and escape with no issues whatsoever. Without the twist, the only thing that keeps our attention is the visuals.
It certainly is an aesthetically pleasing video as the viewers are treated to many cuts of the members smirking. The outfits are an especially fantastic addition, with the changes between suits and leather harnesses indicating when the members are acting as upstanding members of society and their true nature as a group of rogue-ish criminals. Thus, the music video does accomplish its main purpose: conveying Monsta X as the slick thieves pulling off the heist.
For the most part, the music video also doesn’t add much insight into the lyrics. In “Gambler,” the members sing about the relationship between themselves and a girl as they continually try to hide their true feelings from one another. There is a repeated motif of “bluffing” as both parties obscure their true intentions despite a mutual affection.
“There is a strong attraction
I still don’t know if you are Bluffing
But I have a different feeling
Hidden in the dark, My heart is beating now”
The only times that the music video reflects the lyrics is when the success of the members matches the final ultimatum in the lyrics. In the last bridge, Monsta X repeats the refrain, “She’s gone,” showing that the girl has finally succumbed and made a deal of love with Monsta X. The song concludes in the final chorus as the members declare that,
“Cause love is a gamble
Just wanna say
If you don’t know, now you know, deal?”
In general, the music video doesn’t provide any further meaning to the song itself. It mainly acts as an excuse to show off the members in their suit fits while providing a somewhat entertaining storyline. However, the quality of the song itself isn’t harmed by the disconnect between the lyrics and storyline. “Gambler” is still a powerful and mature song that showcases the best of Monsta X’s characteristics. At the end of the day, the music video is just an accent to the overall picture of Monsta X’s strengthened identity.