Showing posts with label kim sang-jin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kim sang-jin. Show all posts

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: THREE SUMMER NIGHT Strips Down To Bikinis And Cheap Jokes

By Pierce Conran

Bikini bods, thugs and knuckleheads cross paths under the summer sun in the latest from Korean comedy maestro Kim Sang-jin. Just as chaotic as his earlier output but with less of an edge, Kim brings his trademark cause-and-effect comedy brand to Three Summer Night, a diverting yet forgettable spin on The Hangover.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fighting Spirit (투혼, Too-hon) 2011

Baseball film? Think again.

Kim Sang-jin is one of the biggest names of modern Korean cinema.  He got his start with early films such as Money in the Account (1995), Gangster Lessons (1996), and Two Cops 3 (1998) but always as a contracted director behind a big producer like Kang Woo-suk.  It wasn’t until 1999 that he got his real start with the anarchic hit Attack the Gas Station, which was stamped with Kim’s signature style that has since led to hit after hit.  He’s not the first name that comes to mind when considering the box office clout of Korean directors, but you would be hard pressed to name a director who has been a more consistent and impressive force on the Korean box office charts.  Attack the Gas Station became the second highest grossing Korean film of 1999, subsequently:  2001’s Kick the Moon came in at no. 3; Jail Breakers wound up at no. 4 in 2002; 2004’s Ghost House also had a no. 4 finish; and Kidnapping Granny K landed just outside the top 10 in 2007.

The interesting thing about all of these hits is that though they are all quite similar in tone and structure, they were all written by different people.  Kim has actually never written any of the films he’s directed, which is a testament to the force of his directing style and how recognizable it is on its own.  Kim’s best and most enduring works have been deranged blends of gang and youth violence (Attack the Gas Station, Kick the Moon), prison and romance (Jailbreakers), or horror and melodrama (Ghost House).  The common denominators between his films have been warring factions, anarchy, comedy, and immense climaxes between multiple large groups, a funny thing to be known for perhaps but very effective and memorable nonetheless.

Do-hun (Kim Joo-hyeok) caught in the act

In 2010, Kim made a follow-up to his original smash hit Attack the Gas Station The sequel had little of the impact of its predecessor and 11 years later it was no longer relevant to audiences, failing to leave an impression on the box office.  Late last year a new Kim film found its way into theaters with little to no fanfare.  I first heard about Fighting Spirit the week before it opened but I wasn’t aware of who made it at first.  Had I not known that it was a Kim Sang-jin film as I sat down to watch it, I probably never would have guessed it.   

Do-hun (Kim Joo-hyeok) is the star pitcher for the Lotte Giants, he is nearing the end of a brilliant career but he’s become arrogant and complacent in the wake of his success.  He’s been kicked out of his house after cheating on his wife (Kim Seon-ah) and is soon demoted to the minors.  He must now prove his worth to his teammates and to his estranged wife and children.  This brief synopsis seems to indicate a typical up-down-up sports trajectory of a fallen hero who will rise again but actually that isn’t really the case.  It’s nearly incidental that he’s a baseball player as the sporting angle is a front for what the film really is, a family melodrama.  Do-hoon’s wife Yoo-ran develops terminal cancer and this is the real crux of the film.  In fact, Fighting Spirit is essentially a cross between GLove and The Last Blossom, two mediocre 2011 films that appeared earlier in the year.

Park Cheol-min in a rare moment of calm

Kim Joo-hyeok is an actor I quite like who impressed me with his effortless performance in The Servant (2010) and has been doing steady work for years but audiences so far have not responded to his being recast as a leading man as both of his 2011 starring roles, the other being In Love and the War, have been major flops.  It’s hard to blame him since the scripts were so lacking but I wonder if he shouldn’t be more discerning with the projects he chooses to take on.  Kim Seon-ah (She's on Duty, 2005; S-Diary, 2004), as Do-hun’s long-suffering wife, is a little cold in her role, thereby nudging the audience to side with the boyish and charming Do-hun, despite his infidelities.  The representation of her character is proof that as gifted as Kim Sang-jin is, he’s never been particularly adept at handling female characters, they always lack depth in his films.  Park Cheol-min, who plays the Lotte Giants minor team coach, is one of those working actors who appears again and again in Korean cinema.  Last year alone he had eight roles, including Clash of the Families, Sector 7, Spellbound, and Suicide Forecast, which would seem to indicate that he’s well liked.  He’s a very over-the-top performer who tends to grin a lot and gesticulate with mock bravado.  His style never really changes:  it’s more a case of putting him in the right situations.  For instance his performance works in Clash of the Families while it is miserably out of place in Sector 7, thankfully he just about fits into this film.

I understand why Fighting Spirit didn’t make any money:  it doesn’t really know what it wants to be and it is very lacking in passion.  It’s by the numbers in its characterizations, plot elements, and resolutions but irregular in its tone and narrative.  What this amounts to in the end is a great director who, like Do-hun, was at the top of his game but seems to have lost his way.  Kim Sang-jin needs to get back on the saddle before he becomes a footnote in Korean cinema.


Do-hun's estranged family

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Korean Box Office Update (10/07-10/09, 2011)

Weekend of October 7-9, 2011:

Title Release Date Weekend Total
1 The Crucible 9/22/11 447,049 3,743,065
2 The Client 9/29/11 395,973 1,456,121
3 Fighting Spirit 10/6/11 90,941 120,802
4 Real Steel (us) 10/12/11 73,738 74,127
5 Countdown 9/29/11 61,010 403,805
6 Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon 8/10/11 50,536 7,378,874
7 The Three Musketeers (uk) 10/12/11 41,083 45,537
8 The Debt (us) 10/6/11 31,606 37,922
9 From up on Poppy Hill (jp) 9/29/11 30,082 168,018
10 Mr. Popper's Penguins (us) 9/7/11 16,337 967,290
- Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild 7/27/11 3,952 2,193,214
- Punch 10/20/11 3,233 6,350
- Marrying the Mafia IV 9/7/11 2,535 2,362,103
- Sunny 5/4/11 1,332 7,373,387
- The Day He Arrives 9/8/11 508 40,451

Box office was down significantly this weekend with a total take of 1.29 million but this was still a strong figure given the time of year. This is now the 11th consecutive weekend that a Korean film has claimed the top spot at the box office. Indeed, Korean films dominated the marquees with 5 of the top 6 spots and an 81% market share. To put this in perpective, the same figures for the comparable weekends of the last 3 years were:

2010: 1.09 million adms. - 50%
2009: 1.06 million adms. - 70%
2008: 1.28 million adms. - 32%

The Crucible aka Silenced, which has inundated Korean media of late as the real-life figures it depicts are now under investigation, held onto its top spot. However, after last weekend's astonishing increase it tumbled 56%, this was still enough for a big 447,049 frame but its lead was much narrower than expected. It currently has 3,743,065 admissions and sits at no.4 on the yearly domestic chart, just after Detective K, which it will pass before long. I'm keen to see how it holds over the coming weeks, it should be the third film to cross 5 million in 2011 but I don't think it will have enough steam to challenge the top two spots.

The Client, which despite being completely overshadowed by The Crucible last weekend, had a strong opening weekend and has held very well in its second weekend of general release with a drop of 26%. This brings its total to 1,456,121 and it it continues to play well throughout October it should become the sixth Korean film of the year to cross 3 million admissions.

The sole local platform release this week was Fighting Spirit, Kim Sang-jin's new baseball comedy, it mustered a weak 90,941 opening weekend. Kim's films, which include Attack the Gas Station (1999), Kick the Moon (2001), Jailbreakers (2002), and Ghost House (2004), used to always wind up in the yearly top 5. 2009's Attack the Gas Station 2 was his first film since before Korean cinema's resurgence which failed to break the 1 million mark but Fighting Spirit, which has garnered decent reviews but sported a relatively tepid marketing campaign, looks to fall well short of the former's 731,426 total. It's sad to see one of Korean cinema's brightest embers start to fade away.

Countdown, which opened to lower than expected figures has suffered a precipitous fall (63%) and attracted a measly 61,010 viewers over the frame. It's total now stands at 403,805 but it will likely drop out of the top 10 very soon, maybe as early as next week. This is a disappointing performance from a well-received film which features two big stars, Jeon Do-yeon and Jeong Jae-yeong. Clearly, name recognition is not the drawing factor it used to be in Korean cinema.

Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon dropped 50% for a 50,536 total, this was enough for it to claim the top spot of the year over Sunny but only by 5,000. Despite all the huge blockbusters that held the weight of expectations on their shoulders like Sector 7, Quick, and The Front Line, this late summer entry which debuted with much less buzz than the previously mentioned films, has comfortably outpaced all of them. It has, in fact, more than doubled all of their totals. A great performance from a very well-reviewed film, considering Sector 7's calamitous flop, clearly Korean moviegoers are a discerning audience!

As for foreign releases, Real Steel, The Three Musketeers, and The Debt opened with 73,738, 41,083, and 31,606, respectively. Poor openings across the board as foreign films in recent months have failed to gain a foothold in Korea.

Looking ahead, there are a number of important local release during the rest of October. With the Busan International Film Fest in full swing, films like Always (which opened the event) and Punch are likely to gain extra exposure after their screenings. K-Pop film Mr. Idol will open at the end of the month and I am very curious to see how it performs, the hallyu element could be a significant draw but it may also bomb, we shall see.

The Korean Box Office Update is a weekly feature which provides detailed analysis of film box office sales over the Friday to Sunday period in Korea. It appears every Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.