Spy Girl

Director:  Park Han-jun
Year: 2004
Rating: 4.0

Country: Korea

I hate being cruel to a film that tries so hard to be as cute as a teddy bear in a Christmas stocking left on your doorstep, but this Korean romantic comedy is as stultifying as a philosophical treatise on Nietzsche as a pimpled faced teenager. It has very little romance and the laughs are as hard to find as a real diamond ring in a box of crackerjacks. So in other words, it is like a lot of other Korean comedies of the period that were spewing out similar cloying films like a drunk on a soju spree. Clichés and corny moments add up like scum around your tub. But like I said I don't want to be cruel to the film. I have had a bunch of Korean comedies sitting around for ages waiting to be seen, pouting like Korean girls do in films and calling me "yeobo" (honey) asking me to watch them. So why not I thought. Ok, not off to a great start but it will get better I am sure.

The one plus and why I kept watching was actress Kim Jung-hwa who has quite the lovely full-lipped face and dewy eyes and went on after this to do mainly TV. She doesn't show a lot of acting skills here besides a few changes of expression - tough girl, surprised girl, confused girl, sad girl - and she looks great in all of them. Her romantic co-star is Gong Yoo who could not be duller here if you paid him - like a plate of left over mash potatoes - each word he speaks is like pulling teeth - but he has gone on to some fame as the father in Train to Busan.

A new girl or "Angel" as she is termed has begun working at Burger King. Definitely tastier than their kimchi burger. The boys from the neighboring school flock to be around Hyo-jin in particular Ko-bong who begins stalking her like a junior pervert and taking photos and putting them up on a website run by his two nerdy friends. This creates a problem for Hyo-jin because she is in fact not Hyo-jin but a spy from North Korea on assignment and the North Korean authorities don't particularly like their agents pictures on the Internet. She is staying with a family of North Korean spies who are bored with the whole thing and have dinners in restaurants with other Korean spies all complaining about their lives.

Hyo-jin is after a North Korean spy who has gone astray and is ordered to bring him back or kill him. In the meantime she has to date Ko-bong to convince him to delete the photos. Inexplicably as he is such a wet towel, she begins to have some affection for him. I guess men in North Korea really suck with all their adulation for the Great Leader. In all of this she takes the time to beat up some bullies with her killer training - but she is as tough in reality as that teddy bear left on the doorstep. The one thing I will give the film is that the end wasn't what I was expecting. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of films about spying between the two nations - in periods when they are getting along the films tend to be relatively kind to the North Koreans with comedies and at other times the North Koreans are portrayed as monsters such as in Shiri.