ContactSales: Finecut, Seoul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: South Korea, 20 May 2010.
Presented by Lotte Entertainment (SK), in association with KTB, Boston Investment. Produced by JK Film (SK). Executive producer: Son Gwang-ik. Producer: Yun Jae-gyun.
Script: Kim Kwang-sik. Photography: Goh Rak-seon. Editing: Lee Jin. Music: Mok Yang-jun. Art direction: Kim Yu-jeong. Sound: Lee Eun-ju, Seo Yeong-jun. Action: Lee Hong-pyo. Visual effects: Jang Seong-ho.
Cast: Park Jung-hun (Oh Dong-cheol), Jeong Yu-mi (Han Se-jin), Park Won-sang (Jeong-seo, the gang deputy), Jeong U-hyeok (Kim, the gang boss), Jeong In-gi (Park, the ex-detective), Gweon Se-in (Lee Jae-yeong, the young gangster), Noh Seung-beom (Bong-su), Min Gyeong-jin (Se-jin's father), Lee Sang-hui (property agent), Im Gi-hong (Min Gi-ho, the harrasser), Park Jong-hyeon (interview president), Lee Jun-hyeok, Son Jin-hwan (final interviewers), Kim Dong-chan (uninterested interviewer), Yu Ji-yeon (interview leader), Oh Seong-su (worker), Song Gyeong-ui (section chief), Lee Chae-eun, Cha Su-mi (nurses), Yun Ga-hyeon (woman inspecting flat), Choi Won-tae, Ju Hyeon-myeong (high-school students), Shin Hye-jeong (noodle bar owner), Min Ji-min, Jo Won-cheol, Kim Yong-min (hapkido athletes), Song Yeong-jae, Han Cheol-u (song-and-dance interviewers), Yang Eun-yong (doctor), Kim Mi-ra (madam).
My Dear Desperado 내 깡패 같은 애인
Contemporary romantic comedy
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 104 mins
Directed by Kim Kwang-sik (김광식)
By Derek Elley
Sun, 20 March 2011, 01:34 AM (HKT)
Unaffected direction and strong lead chemistry make this a likeably offbeat rom-com. Asian events, plus niche TV.
South Korea, the present day. University graduate Han Se-jin (Jeong Yu-mi) leaves her hometown, where her conservative father (Min Gyeong-jin) is the local stationmaster, for Seoul, where she has been offered a job in an IT company. Some time later, however, the company goes bankrupt and she's forced to move into a cheap basement flat while job-hunting. Her new neighbour is middle-aged Oh Dong-cheol (Park Jung-hun), a small-time gangster who works for boss Kim (Jeong U-hyeok) collecting loans. Se-jin is initially uncomfortable living next door to a gangster but later forms a wary friendship with him after he helps her out a couple of times. Depressed by her inability to get a job because of the economic recession, Se-jin ends up drinking with Dong-cheol one evening and having a one-night stand with him. She later asks him to pose as her wealthy boyfriend on a trip home to visit her anxious father — though that doesn't quite go as planned, and Se-jin ends up staying on with her father. Meanwhile, Dong-cheol, who has almost started a gang war back in Seoul by beating up some hapkido athletes in revenge, is told by boss Kim to formally apologise to the athletes' boss, former police detective Park (Jeong In-gi). Dong-cheol reluctantly agrees, but that same day Se-jin is due in Seoul for an important job interview.
It's possible to nitpick My Dear Desperado 내 깡패 같은 애인 (2010) on several levels — the characters are rather thinly backgrounded, the more serious second half sometimes stretches believability, there's too little real drama, etc. — but the fact remains that this offbeat rom-com works a charm on an emotional level, thanks to terrific screen chemistry between its two leads and first-time director KIM Kwang-sik 김광식's fluid handling of his own script. Though it only did modest local business, and passed below most observers' radars, it's one of the most enjoyably unaffected movies from South Korea last year.
Kim, who's worked as an editor and previously wrote the odd-trio road movie Off Road 오프로드 (2007), concentrates this time on an odd couple — young, university educated, out-of-towner Se-jin and middle-aged petty gangster Dong-cheol — throwing them together in an everyday setting in Seoul's winding backstreets and letting them play off each other in a series of encounters. Though she looks a couple of years too old for the part of Se-jin, JEONG Yu-mi 정유미 | 鄭有美 compensates with the same quiet inner strength she showed in the title role in Oki's Movie 옥희의 영화 (2010), plus a nice gift for character-driven comedy and the most expressive curled lip in the business. As Dong-cheol, PARK Joong-hoon 박중훈 (Nowhere to Hide 인정 사정 볼것 없다 (1999), Radio Star 라디오 스타 (2006)) capitalises on his essential likability to make the central relationship believable — in a way that few other South Korean actors could have pulled off.
Desperado is at its weakest when it's dealing with generic elements — the character of a young trainee gangster, played by GWON Se-in 권세인 | 權世仁, whom Dong-cheol tries to discourage, or the climactic fight near the end, staged in red paint — but thankfully these form a small part of the movie. Like offbeat South Korean rom-coms of yore, such as PARK Heung-shik 박흥식's I Wish I Had a Wife 나도 아내가 있었으면 좋겠다 (2000), the movie is at its best when trying to do the least: simple vignettes between the two leads, scenes between Se-jin and her father, or moments when Dong-cheol tries to show friendliness beneath his protective gruff exterior. The film's sense of unforced flow owes a lot to the seamless editing by LEE Jin 이진 (co-editor with Steve M. CHOE 최민영 on Running Turtle 거북이 달린다 (2009), Kiss Me, Kill Me 킬미 (2008) and Late Autumn 만추 (2010)) but also to director Kim's coverage and set-ups, which are always at the service of the actors and characters.