She's On Duty

Director: Park Kwang-choon.
Year: 2005
Production Company: Mine Entertainment
Running Time:  111 minutes

This is a convivial mix of sassy girl attitude, physical comedy and light action that never taxes your brain cells in any meaningful manner, but is difficult not to like. I might have a bit more respect for it if I hadn’t seen basically the same film years ago in a Stephen Chow vehicle called “Fight Back to School” (1991), but if you are going to borrow, borrow from the best and that they do. They also make a gender switch which certainly adds some fun new dimensions to the film. Actress Kim Seon-ah is of course no Stephen Chow (but then who is?), but she is considered perhaps the best film comedienne in Korea and her surly belligerent slow burn lower lip attitude is the best thing about the film by far.

Here she plays Jae-in, a tough smart mouthed cop who would prefer smacking someone to talking to them – at one point she suggests to her superior/uncle (Noh Joo-hyeon) to just beat the information out of a young girl since that’s what they do best. The film begins with her in undercover mode as a high school girl in school uniform and ponytails about to be sent to Japan as part of a sex trade trafficking delivery – she is mildly insulted when one of the other girls doesn’t believe she could possibly be that age. When it looks like her backup isn’t coming, she goes into action to arrest the crooks with a few whirlwind kicks and twirls, but is saved from being killed by another undercover cop, Joh (Ha Jeong-woo) who berates her for blowing the operation to snag the big boys behind this.
Sulking, she goes back to headquarters just in time to be spotted by senior brass who think she will be perfect to go undercover full time in high school. Her assignment is to watch Seung-hee (Nam Sang-mi), the daughter of the second in command of the Whacker Gang. Her father (Kim Kap-soo) had planned to turn state’s evidence but has now gone into hiding in fear for his life. The police think he will contact his daughter and so Jae-in has to get close to the girl – a difficult task. In the meantime, she develops a school girl crush on another high school student (Gong Yoo) who is suspiciously adroit in martial arts.
The comedy comes in the form of a fish out of water – the horror of high school – one student says she must have “aging disease” for looking so old (in fact, Kim is nearing 30 so playing a high school student is a bit of a stretch!), she is terrible in her studies and has to have much of the police force helping her pass a test, she is punished for poor behavior like drinking and has to deal with a gang of girls who have it in for her. It is an easy film to digest with a small smidgeon of melodrama thrown in near the end as well as a big brawl that leaves everyone bloody and beaten. The only real disappointment is that it seems that a big fight is being set up between her and a sizzling femme fatale in the Whacker Gang, but it never really happens.

My rating for this film: 6.5


Reviewed: 03/06

Previous films from the Director:

Madeleine (2003)
The Soul Guardians (1998)