Open City


South Korea
Director: Lee Sang-gi
Year: 2008

This debut from director Lee Sang-gi begins promisingly as a sleek, fast moving policier, but like so many Korean films of late feels the need to excessively pile on the melodrama to such an extent that it brings the whole film down like a house of wet cards. I have to confess that I am finding myself more and more annoyed with the current crop of Korean films and their slavish addiction to absurd attempts to create overwrought tragedy (the cow incident in Le Grande Chef was pretty much the final straw). One mother isn’t enough for this film so at the end it has to throw another one on the bonfire of melodrama. There is enough tragedy in the final fifteen minutes of this film to fill a volume of Shakespeare but unfortunately none of it hits home. It only makes you roll your eyes in exasperation.

Cho Dae-young (Kim Myung-min) is a tough hard hitting cop that can tear a gang of toughs apart in five minutes without batting an eyelid. He very reluctantly joins the pickpocketing division – why reluctantly – well because his mother was a top pickpocket and spent much of her life in prison and when Cho’s sister discovered this she collapsed and became an epileptic. Now mom is out and has diabetes (often seen grasping for little cubes of sugar) but Cho will have nothing to do with her. A new girl is in town – Baek Jang-mi (the hotter than a burning house Son Ye-jin) – and she has formed a new gang of pickpockets but is looking for a territory to call her own. She once was an apprentice to Cho’s mother and helps her buy a restaurant. Cho and Baek come together like comets – he can’t keep his hands off her, she can’t keep her hands out of his pockets – and though he knows she is a master pickpocket he begins to fall for her. Other pickpocket gangs aren’t too happy with her intruding into their area and things get nasty – very nasty. But it is at this point where things begin to fall apart in the film as there is a rush to the end with one tragedy falling on top of another to ill effect. The film has some solid swift action scenes, a good dog-eyed performance from Kim and Son Ye-jin is a dazzling treat on the senses (though perhaps not exactly a convincing pickpocket), but the script needed someone to simply say enough is enough guys – this is getting stupid.

My rating for this film: 4.5