By Kwaak Je-yup
It is a well-known fact that raising funds for a film is a tricky process, with investors asking for a guarantee of some kind of success at the box office.
"The Scent" by Kim Hyeong-joon-I ("No Mercy", 2009) is a prime example of creators giving in too much to such demands, using every hit formula in the book while failing to put them together in a coherent whole.
The film is geared towards men and men only. It offers racy scenes involving a well-known actress appearing topless and police station "dramedy" with ample slapstick sprinkled onto a meaty plot. Kim even announced that his work pays homage (and draws comparison) to the iconic sex-meets-thriller "Basic Instinct". This alone should provide sufficient box office thrust.
Sitting through the movie, however, one cannot help but feel that the film falls flat. Comedy and suspense largely cancel each other out and the near two-hour running time seems like an eternity.
Kang Sun-woo (Park Hee-soon) is a detective specializing in adultery (a crime punishable by law in Korea) who is on probation for cheating on his wife with colleague (Cha Soo-yeon). While running a private practice in the interim, he becomes mired in a murder case. The sole witness to the death of a man and his mistress is his seductive wife Kim Soo-jin (Park Si-yeon), who Sun-woo suspects is the killer yet is drawn to her mystique.
Park Hee-soon, a seasoned actor last seen in the period thriller "Gabi" in March, is the centerpiece that is supposed to hold the film together, jumping between the serious and the laughable. The two forces, personified by femme fatale Soo-jin and the detectives, respectively, rarely meet each other and Park becomes lost; instead of being a single chameleon-like three-dimensional human being, he is divided into two separate entities.
In certain scenes, he broods for what seems like forever, his libido heating up slowly in a pressure cooker before spewing out furious steam. In others, he splatters out a thesaurus worth of curse words, playfully slapping his mentally-challenged partner-in-crime Gi-pung (Kwang Soo, one of the film's few highlights) and tirelessly runs around town as a fugitive.
There is no reconciliation between the two. No wonder Cha has the most thankless part in the movie as his wife. The scene where she forgives his affairs is as unbelievable as their supposed marriage of several years.
Park Si-yeon, a starlet receiving the most limelight this opening weekend, is adequate as a sexpot but never given a chance to act. She looks dazzling, clothed or nude, and her constantly inexpressive face is used as a way to veil her true persona. There seems to be little to nothing behind that facade, however, gleaning from the movie's portrayal of Soo-jin.
Currently in theaters. Runs 117 minutes. Rated 19 and over. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex.
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Korean movies & dramas
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