Sunday, March 11, 2012

At the (Korean) Movies in NY 1: Quick

Since New York is a somewhat bustling but overall sleepy little place, whose humble citizens rarely like to toot any horns, I am writing a few pieces about some pleasant Korean movie screenings I've experienced. In fact, there is many an opportunity to see this great nation's film work in our fair city. Give a read and perhaps you'll be taken with the unexpected urge to stop by and visit.

I'm beginning with Quick, which I saw at the New York Korean Film Festival held at Brooklyn's BAM. They also screened Hindsight and Moss, which I've written about in older posts, and Dbborrough's thoughts on Quick can be found as well.

QUICK (New York Korean Film Festival, BAM)

Quick is a film that seems to know exactly what it is:  Loud, dumb fun.  Yet, despite its constant urging to empty one’s mind of all critical thought, its delivery persisted in bothering me. 

The story is another take on the race against the clock convention introduced by Speed.  Motorcycle courier Gi-soo ‘s helmet is replaced by one that is armed with a detonator set to go off if removed, or if the rider fails to complete a series of missions before a timer reaches zero.  Instead it ends up on the head of passenger Ah-Rom, lead member of a pop girl group and Gi-soo‘s former girlfriend, in a move that I am not sure is supposed to be a zany coincidence or a cunning calculation on the part of a garble-voiced villain (one of many questions that by the end of the movie will prove to be completely irrelevant).  Unlike in the original premise, this timer can be turned off and put on hold for a while until it is restarted later for the next mission.  It’s a move put in place to perhaps allow for a romantic development between the two leads.  It ends up, however, killing much of the film’s promised suspense.  

Six years prior to this is where the movie begins in what to me is Quick’s highest point.  Without any notion of story to get in the way, there is a maniacally hyperactive set-piece with a biker gang racing through the streets of urban Seoul.  Over the sounds of engines rip roaring and disgruntled cops cursing out the proceedings, there is a verbal chase involving the leads and a third more bumbling rider who all together form a triangle of unrequited love.  In absence of the ensuing clichés, it is a hilarious exchange, which ends in an impressively over the top disaster.  

Unfortunately things never get back to the adrenaline rush of that opening scene.  There is the aforementioned time-sensitive struggle that pits our love-impaired duo in the crosshairs of a dysfunctional police force and a shadowy (plus entirely cliché) evildoer.  The motorcycle stunts are fun and completely defy reality.  The physical comedy is also amusing. At first.  But one can only take so many people getting smacked in the face by whatever part of whatever vehicle before the joke loses its impact.

The same problem applies to the constant barrage of voices, whether it’s in the form of talking, arguing, whimpering, wailing…It just doesn’t let up for even a moment.  It is as if the director does not trust the audience to stick with things through even a moment that isn’t filled with sound.  It works during some amusing scenes like when Ah-Rom is engaged in a generational war of words with her K-pop group mates or bitter exchanges amongst members of the police squads.  The relentlessness of these moments doesn’t allow for anything you can balance against them. It just becomes a lot of background noise.  

What perhaps sticks most awkwardly in my craw is a very annoying call back to the past, which for 30 seconds, supposes to make the audience consider things with grave seriousness before once again filling the air with earsplitting squeals and bodies getting tossed about by explosions. Remove all of these annoyances and there are still some very extraordinary stunts, which if the sequence that plays over the end credits is any indication, may call for a sequel to Action Boys (a documentary about the hazardous lives of stunt actors in the Korean film industry).  

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