Save the Green Planet! Review
A demented young man, Byung-gu, kidnaps Chairman Kang, the head of an industrial corporation as he believes him to be a alien spy from the planet Andromeda. With the aid of his dozy girlfriend Sooni he begins to interrogate and torture Kang to reveal his true identity before the next full moon, when Earth (the 'Green Planet') will be invaded.
This Korean film is a curious mix of genres: a serial killer/detective thriller combined with broad comedy and elements of science fiction. It's actually billed as a sci-fi comedy, with the serial killing aspect not even mentioned in the liner notes, and only briefly in the film. And if you look at the cover you'd think it was a zany childrens film. Right from the start it's difficult to gauge the feeling Jun-Hwan, the director, is going for. The kidnappers wear bin liners and helmets with flashing lights that look so naff that even the Goonies would turn their noses up at them. But this is a Tartan Asian Extreme release, so pound to a penny there's going to be some nastiness. And there is. Torture scenes come and go with the usual asian creative flair, often accompanied with the kind of music that you might expect to find in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The acting is very good. Shin Ha-Kyun playing Byung-gu makes a sympathetic nut job, as does his dopey circus artiste girlfriend Sooni. Similarily Kang, the rich capitalist pig fighting for his life, and detective Chu assigned to the case, are also sympathetic characters. That's another perplexing thing - you don't know who to root for as they're all quite likeable. Detective Chu played by Lee Jae-Wong is an excellent creation - a greasy, idiosynchratic scruffbag with a brilliant mind. Kind of a Korean Columbo with even less sartorial elegance. I'd like to see a film solely based around him.
The film is very entertaining most of the time and certainly visually striking, with dizzying camera work, snazzy cutting and even small bursts of animation keeping everything kicking along. The set design is impressive, as is the cinematography, giving a twisted sense of reality with some well executed set pieces. However, by shoehorning slapstick comedy into the proceedings almost at random, along with what could only be termed sombre social commentary, he takes away the momentum of the main story. The director (who is also the writer) misses out on one important aspect vital to a film like this: tension. Jun-Hwan chucks everything into his script, it's as if he was making three or four films at once, so you don't feel as much for the characters on an emotional level as you should. Practically everyone in the film is 'goofy', whether intelligent or stupid. It all gets rather silly and tiresome. And the ending rankles, as too many asian 'cult' films have a habit of ending in such a manner. Obviously I won't elaborate but suffice to say any Takeshi Miike fans will feel by the film's end that they've been watching a compilation of his work. Still, it's all good unclean fun.