Beef on Netflix Review: Do not give in to road rage. Binge this dark comedy instead

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaApr 13, 2023 | 08:01

Beef on Netflix Review: Do not give in to road rage. Binge this dark comedy instead

Beef explores a relatable road rage story with Ali Wonga and Steven Yeun giving career-best performances (photo designed by Shaurya Thapa for DailyO)

The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun has always been a good actor. Perhaps from Minari, viewers began to take him more seriously as a man with dramatic depth. Depending upon where you’ve seen comedian Ali Wong, you would know that she’s not a bad actor either. 

But in Netflix’s latest miniseries Beef, it feels like Yeun and Wong have been held at gunpoint and forced to deliver their career-best performances. And boy, do they deliver!


Beef, as the title suggests, delves into a clash between financially-struggling handyman Daniel (Yeun) and the uber-rich “houseplant entrepreneur” Amy (Wong). Both individuals are self-made people, a testimony to the immigrant experience in the States. More than himself, Daniel is working hard to secure a future for his younger brother Paul and his ageing Korean parents. Amy, on the other hand, is a Vietnamese-origin woman who seems to be trapped in a loveless marriage with a Japanese-origin “artist house-husband”. 

Why Beef's diversity and "Asian-ness" doesn't feel "forced"

The pan-Asian diversity goes beyond the cast as even creator-writer Lee Sung Jin has his roots in South Korea and director Hikari traces his origins from Japan. And yet, this is a show where individual differences and nuances go beyond racial differences. There is no space to address any white-on-Asian racism followed by forced hyperwoke-pandering as Beef is a show that normalises its characters. 

Both Daniel and Amy are broken individuals who definitely need a lot of therapy and Beef covers their tumultuous issues that come out in the open after a road rage incident. Sung Jin seems to deliberately keep very limited non-Asian characters and this is understandable in a post-Everything Everywhere All At Once era. 


And that doesn’t mean Beef delves deep into Asian traditions or culture. Why would it when all its characters are “Asian-origin Americans”? 

And yet the razorsharp sarcasm and cultural self-awareness comes out in smaller moments such as Daniel wanting his brother to settle with a Korean girl or at least an Italian girl (he says that Italians share the same “peninsula mentality” as Koreans). Sometime towards the shocking finale, Daniel and Amy realise that “Western therapy doesn’t work on Eastern minds”. The show is filled with such chuckle-worthy gems which bring out ethnic-centric humour but from an effortlessly honest Asian perspective. 

Now contrast that with some forced “Indianness” in Mindy Kaling’s Netflix comedy Never Have I Ever! The show might have catered to NRI folks in Kaling’s circle but many Indians in the homeland could hardly connect with the characters and rather cringe at caricatures like an extremely devotional Hindu mother and what not. And let’s not even distract ourselves further with Kaling’s horrendous take on Scooby-Doo’s Velma!

How Beef's road-rage premise is shockingly real

In this regard, Beef feels more natural in its treatment of two Asian individuals making it on their own with hopes to achieve the American dream. And obviously the most fascinating aspect of the narrative is, of course, the road rage that triggers it all. Without delving into spoiler territory, viewers must know that Beef starts off with a parking-area skirmish between Daniel and Amy. 


Regardless of which country they live in, viewers will be able to relate with the incident and can even take sides like Team Amy and Team Daniel. But that one incident leads to such a shockingly twisted domino effect that you will definitely be on the edge of your seat with what happens next. 

Just think of the unpredictable chaos and socio-political satire in Parasite and mix it with the toxically symbiotic connection between the two leads in Killing Eve. The cocktail that comes out of mixing the two is Beef. 

And while the simple road skirmish escalates into an unimaginable series of tragedies, the scariest thing about Beef is that it seems very much plausible (especially out here in Indian cities like Delhi where road rage has become a tradition). 

A top-notch cast (and brownie points to Steven Yeun the singer)

While Jin and the rest of the writers’ room give their Emmy-best, Beef is undeniably elevated with its talented ensemble. Ali Wong proves that she’s more than just a stand-up comedian and channels her dramatic prowess as Amy. She gnarls. She cries. She even devilishly smiles (when she’s making Daniel’s life hell). And she does it all with little to no overacting. 


Yeun draws upon his wholesomely positive Minari character but also doesn’t shy away from his character’s absolute breaking points. From a side-character in an oversaturated zombie show to holding his own in Beef, the man has come a long way. Much like Amy, Daniel too gnarls. He cries. He devilishly smiles (when he’s making Amy’s life hell). And, not to forget, he sings! 

If there’s anyone other than Wong with whom Yeun shares perfect chemistry, it’s an acoustic guitar! Whenever Yeun sings, you are bound to give him your unblinking attention. 

Leads Yeun and Wong are definitely the most popular faces of Beef but even the supporting cast give their all. 

There is David Choe playing Daniel’s cousin Isaac, an ex-convict who is on parole and has some sketchy business ideas up his sleeve. Choe perfectly captures Isaac’s unhinged nature, cracking a pun in one scene and landing blows in another. Equally well-cast is Young Mazino as Daniel’s brother Paul, a buffed-up, annoying brat who ticks off post-millennial cliches like “crypto-investing” and “falling in love on Instagram”. 

On Amy’s side of the family, we have Joseph Lee as her good-natured but dim-witted husband George. He’s the kind of person whom you wouldn’t want around in case you have mental health issues. Otherwise, he might just get tonedeaf and say he understands you by bringing up his own First World issues.

George spends his time sculpting modernist vases which fits into Beef’s sub-theme on the art of the rich. In a less tongue-in-cheek way than recent “eat the rich” works like The White Lotus and Triangle of Sadness, Beef manages to smartly poke fun at the people who can spend millions on a chair with “butt impressions”.

Talking about The White Lotus, the second season of the HBO original will definitely be competing against Beef at this year’s Emmys. It’s too early to predict the awards race at the moment but here’s hoping that Beef  makes an Emmy sweep. If that doesn’t happen, some deranged Beef fan might just end up crashing their car into the Emmys...

We’re going with 4.5 out of 5 stars for Beef.

Last updated: April 13, 2023 | 08:01
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