ContactSales: Finecut, Seoul ([email protected])
Theatrical release: South Korea, 23 Jun 2011.
Presented by Next Entertainment World (SK). Produced by Kim Ki Duk Film (SK). Producer: Kim Ki-duk.
Script: Kim Ki-duk. Photography: Lee Jeong-in. Editing: Shin Cheol. Music: Park In-yeong. Art direction: Lee Jong-geon. Costumes: Shin Ji-yeong. Sound: Lee Seung-yeob. Action: Kim Shin-ung. Visual effects: Jang Seong-ho.
Cast: Yun Gye-sang ("Poongsan"), Kim Gyu-ri (In-ok), Kim Jong-su (North Korean defector), Han Gi-jung (KCIA section chief), Choi Mu-seong (KCIA team leader), Yu Ha-bok (North Korean officer), Kim Yun-tae (head bodyguard), Bae Yong-geun (Wolf), Kim Jeong-seok, Jo Jae-ryeong, Lee Nak-jun, Kim Yeong-hun (hit team members), Jin Seon-gyu (North Korean torturer), Son Yeong-sun (Miss Yun), Kim Jae-rok (her son), Yu Sun-cheol (her grandfather), Gwon Min-gyeong, Gong Tae-min (hostess bar women), Jin Hyeon-ah, Kim Ye-na (hostess bar North Korean women), Odagiri Joe, Kim Jae-won, Choi Dong-yeon (North Korean border guards).
2011, colour, 16:9, 121 mins
Directed by Juhn Jai-hong (전재홍 | 全宰弘)
By Derek Elley
Tue, 18 October 2011, 14:10 PM (HKT)
Smart idea critiquing cross-border Korean relations is effective but very uneven. Mainly festivals.
The Korean peninsula, the present day. A man simply known as "Poongsan" - from the brand of North Korean cigarettes he smokes - makes regular trips across the DMZ, smuggling everything from people to antiques. No one knows whether he is from the North or the South, though from his commando-like abilities he is obviously highly trained. He makes contact with clients via a makeshift memorial-cum-bulletin board for divided families along the DMZ. On one mission he smuggles an antique, as well as a young boy, from North to South; when the smugglers are caught by the police, the South's National Intelligence Service becomes aware of Poongsan's existence. They contract him to bring a young woman, In-ok (Kim Gyu-ri), from Pyongyang to her lover (Kim Jong-su), a high-ranking North Korean official who recently defected and is still guarded by NIS agents. The arrogant official, who is paranoid about being assassinated, has been holding out on writing a report for the NIS until In-ok joins him. On the journey across the DMZ, In-ok accidentally sets off a mine that almost kills her and Poongsan, and also has to be revived by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when she almost drowns. The mission is successful but In-ok has become attached to the man who saved her life. Suspicious that the two made love during the crossing, the arrogant abuses In-ok after they are reunited and she expresses a desire to return to the North. Meanwhile, Poongsan is tortured by an NIS team leader (Choi Mu-seong) to find out whether he is a North Korean agent, but is rescued by the team leader's boss (Han Gi-jung). Poongsan is forced to rescue NIS agent Kim Yong-nam, who's been caught in the North and is under interrogation; in gratitude, and appalled by his own agency's methods, Kim later helps Poongsan escape from the NIS' control. But then Poongsan and In-ok are captured by North Korean agents in the South.
Written by KIM Ki-duk 김기덕 | 金基德, and directed by Kim acolyte JUHN Jai-hong 전재홍 | 全宰弘 (Beautiful 아름답다 (2007)), Poongsan 풍산개 (2011) is a smart idea that doesn't really go the distance at two hours. Where Beautiful took an ironic look at the South Korean obsession with physical beauty, in the story of a young woman who goes to extreme lengths to look un-attractive to men, Poongsan takes an equally ironic look at the obsessive nature of North-South enmity, via an anonymous cross-border smuggler caught in the middle. The film's strongest section is its final half-hour, when the hero takes a poetic revenge on both sides that's blackly funny, summing up the idiocy of entrenched, knee-jerk attitudes and political brain-washing.
Until that point, Kim's screenplay is a jerky affair, with interesting moments separated by scenes that are more cliched: male attitudinising, people pulling guns on each other, copious torture scenes in both North and South, and dialogue that veers from clever to clumsy. Juhn's direction, which was so well-honed in Beautiful, is sometimes rudimentary on a technical level, and looks a little starved by its budget and Red One camerawork; character psychology is also weaker, driven more by the plot than by genuine emotions.
As the apolitical hero whom both sides just can't put in a convenient box, former boybander YUN Gye-sang 윤계상 | 尹啓相 (the rookie prison officer in The Executioner 집행자 (2009)) is very believable on a tough, physical level as "Poongsan", despite having no dialogue. The main weakness is the performance of KIM Gyu-ri 김규리 | 金奎吏 (formerly known as Kim Min-seon 김민선 | 金珉洗), a variable actress (Low Life 하류인생 (2004), For Eternal Hearts 별빛 속으로 (2006)) who simply doesn't look or act like a North Korean and has little chemistry with Yun.
The Korean title — which can be translated word-for-word as Wind-Scattering Dog — refers to the North Korean brand of cigarettes after which the anonymous hero is nicknamed. The brand, written as "PhungSan" in the North, has a dog's head as its logo.