Director: Choo Chang-min
Year: 2005
Production Company: Corea Entertainment
Running Time: 107 minutes

This fish out of water film aims straight for low brow slapstick humor and for the most part hits a bulls-eye. This won’t easily be mistaken for an Ernst Lubitch comedy any time soon as subtlety and sophistication have gone awol with a vengeance but nevertheless it’s hard to resist its corny humor and oddball appealing characters. I mean how could you resist a film with a bunch of horny old women? Clearly, the audience couldn’t as it came in 8th at the box office. As in so many Korean comedies it has its share of whacking on heads and brings in a rush of melodrama at the end – but it all works in a satisfyingly sweet way. In truth, I wasn’t expecting much from this but it lulled me into a torpor of good will.

Shin is down on his luck these days financially and the tax collectors are ready to swoop in. As he tells the employees of his seedy little hostess lounge “It was easy to make money when I was into extortion”. As he does every week, he sends out one of the girls Jang-mi to buy his lottery ticket with his standard numbers and he soon looks on in disbelief and delirium as his numbers are chosen one by one – finally his ship has come in. Unfortunately, Jang-mi does not – she vanishes with the ticket and leaves few clues behind. Shin hires the diminutive and slightly corrupt cop Chung-su (Lee Mun-sik) to look for her and to take his young assistant, Jae-cheo (Lee Jung-jin) along with him.
They discover that she comes from the island of Mapa and figure that she might have gone back home. They take a boat to the island but soon realize that it is nearly deserted with only five elderly women as inhabitants – and the next ferry isn’t for a week. And Jang-mi is nowhere to be seen. The old women – all nicely played by these veteran actresses (Kim Soo-mi being the only one I was familiar with) – all have their past stories as to how they ended up here but now they spend their days working the fields, the bee hives and smoking big doobies to relax. Eventually with nothing much to do and at the prodding of these women who haven’t seen a man in a long long time, they begin to help out and a bond begins to grow – and a fair amount of silly laughs as well. Of course the film has to go somewhere but it gets their very leisurely – the drama does kick in and it turns out that Shin does in fact have a not so nice side to him – and you really do get a bit anxious how this will all turn out as Korean films can also turn tragic at the flick of an eye. Lee Mun-sik as the sad sack cop with a heart of larceny tinged by a reluctant streak of ethics is constantly amusing. It ends with an interesting musical choice – Neil Young’s “See the Sky About to Rain” and it feels perfect for the moment.

My rating for this film: 7.0


Reviewed: 01/06

Previous films from Director:

This was his debut film