Friday, March 17, 2006

Juemogi Unda(Crying Fist)

Fists of Fury

Jumeogi Unda(Crying Fist)

Starring Choi Min Sik (Old Boy, Happy End), Seung Beom Ryu(Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance)

Director: Ryoo Seung-Wan(Arahan, Die Bad)

Treading pugilist tearjerk maneouvers lightly but getting a perverse delight from indulging them- - - that frail grandmother evicting her sickbed for a ringside seat is the working definition of pushing it - - - this fighter melodrama was prone to ickiness from the get-go. It succumbs eventually - - - pulling its punches because Ryoo knows better not to. But sap laid on thin is still sap - - -that's my nit. Granted, there's a charge to its coarse sheen. And lower your defenses a bit and making friends with the movie becomes effortless. You don't come away empty-handed either. It makes enough of a case for both its underdog protagonists - - - Choi Min Sik's over the hill champion whoring himself out as a human punchbag for grub and coin while his family disintegrates and Ryu Seung-Beom's hothead punk languishing in jail who finds vent for his rage boxing in prison - - - so that when their parallel lives converge in the ring (you knew that), you not only feel for both , you root for both.
* * *
Salinui Chueok(Memories of Murder)

Good Cop Bad Cop

Salinui Chueok(Memories of Murder)
Starring Song Kang Ho (The President's Barber), Kim Sang-Kyung (Turning Gate)
Director: Bong Jun Hoo (The Host)

It’s the Korean Jack the Ripper. Just as gruesome, just as unsolved. Knowing that won’t muck things up. City cop and country cop partner to crack the case and it's their story mostly. And the serial killer they dog is a lash of panic that welts this investigation into smalltown hysteria , this tweaking of odd couple dynamics , this slapstick upending of the police procedural, this many things beyond dull roman a clef , with the throb of sinister goings-on. Soon, scenes achieve grace, some crackle and one - - - a set piece in the dead of a rainy night - - -had me picking my jaw up from the floor. Delicate balances are struck. Between placid milieu and seething underbubble. Between foreboding creepiness and broad comedy. Between truth and embellishment. Between invisible solution and tantalizing mystery. * * * * *

Friday, March 10, 2006

Jageop-ui jeongseok (Art of Seduction)

Slut machine.

Jageop-ui jeongseok (Art of Seduction)
Starring Son Ye-jin (April Snow) / Song Il-gook (Red Eye)
Director Oh Ki-Hwan (Last Present)

More like the art of Son Ye-jin's smile. She's purty but a seam-splitting seductress she isn't. Given that this movie aims for the funny more than fanny but still, light sweating should still be encouraged. Ye-jin's content with being cute and any licking of the lips (her own) is mechanical.
Il-gook's suave grace dominates, the trophy practically handed over to him, in this lopsided battle of the sex machines which is too polite, too skittish and almost too charming. Everything a good roll in the hay should never be. Kid stuff. *1/2

Na-ui gyeolhon-wonjeongki (Wedding Campaign)

Odd couple. Odd place.

Na-ui gyeolhon-wonjeongki (Wedding Campaign)
Starring Jung Jae-young (Welcome to Dongmakgol) / Yu Jun-sang (Tell Me Something) / Soo-ae (A Family)
Director Hwang Byung-guk

Who looks for love in Uzbekistan? Apparently, Korean farmers. Desperate Korean farmers. (There's a short spiel at the beginning of the movie which explains why there are illegal Korean immigrants --- known as Koryo, I think --- in a far-flung Eastern Europe country, so believe it.) Man-taek's (Jung) naivete in women starts out funny, but in an alien land with cold art deco gold-leafed edifices, it's heartbreaking. The general rule: farmers play the rich man card and the Koryo play along for a visa back to motherland. But Min-taek falls for his handler, a North Korean who wants to defect to the South. I know it sounds complicated and too soap opera-ish but in the hands of the brilliant Jung, Min-taek's unraveling is a mosaic of flaws and shy first-steps that refuse to be anything but a man stubbornly fighting for his last chance at true love. ****