By Lee Hyo-won
"Ajumma". The word can be roughly translated as "auntie", normally referring to married women or those past the rosy bloom of their youth. In certain contexts it can be derogatory or even sexist, but it's also a fond term for all the mothers of the world.
Director Kim Sang-man
celebrate ajumma power in his directorial debut, "Girl Scout
". But there are, of course, no girls to be found here. Think of a pitifully amateur Charlie's Angels with four generations of women, from a 20-year-old to a grandma in her 60s, joining forces to get their money back from a swindler.
Our main ajumma is played by Kim Sun-ah
, the lovable heroine of "My Lovely Samsoon" ("My Name is Kim Sam-soon
"). Mi-kyeong is a 30-something-year-old divorcee trying to make ends meet for her young daughter.
Veteran actress Na Moon-hee
plays imo (auntie), a forgivable kleptomaniac grandma who works at a supermarket to feed her grouchy, unemployed son, and occasionally offers herself "bonuses" with "free" snacks from the warehouse.
, one of the nation's foremost comediennes, makes her big screen debut as Bong-sun, the quintessential middle-aged Korean mom who's always yelling at her sons. A widow, she's the breadwinner and sews eyes onto stuffed animals to save up for her ill child's surgery.
The three ajummas had entrusted their hard-earned money with a neighbor, Hye-ran (Im Ji-eun
), who gave false promises about some lucrative interest. But one day, Hye-ran runs off with their money plus the 2.2 billion won she convinced her boyfriend, Hong-gi, to swindle from the debenture he works for. But she double-crosses him too, eager to claim the spoils for her own.
Yet these are women who don't give up on their cash so easily. With almost the heroism of the protagonist in "The Chaser"
, Mi-kyeong, imo and Bong-sun dismiss the useless police and set off on their own to track down Hye-ran. Eun-ji (Go Joon-hee
), a perky 20-year-old, decides to tag-along.
While Eunji wasn't conned by Hye-ran, she's got money problems of her own. This "honorary" ajumma had to give up professional golfing to pay off her late father's business debts. She's constantly threatened by Jong-dae (played by Ryu Tae-joon
, the handsome Byuk Kye-soo in the hit drama "Hwangjin-i
"), a suave and merciless debt collector working for a loan shark. This is the very loan shark Hye-ran and her boyfriend conned, so things get complicated as Jong-dae must deal with the pack of women who keep getting in his way of catching Hye-ran.
A rare on-the-road and action-packed film starring women, the film takes you by surprise as it unfolds in the tradition of crisscrossed crime movies like Guy Ritchie's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" ― minus the Tarantino-type blood-gushing and gun trotting.
The lethal weapon of choice for the ajumma clan is some relentless ― and really scary ― hair pulling. Their vehicle is not a sexy sports car but a cute yellow minivan Mi-kyeong drives for a children's art academy.
To tip off the lighthearted comedy, touching drama pervades ― motherly instincts, sisterly bonds and the test of the heart in front of large sums of money. The tactful casting of actresses representing their respective generations, makes it magic.
Mayhem ensues but with tasteful moderation and delightful detail, like freeze framing one of the stuffed animals Bong-sun was patching bouncing out of the minivan. Kim creates a fine mise-en-scene with the finesse of a veteran waiter who can deliver a tray balancing a pyramid of champagne glasses through a crowded dance hall.
Be ready for a wild ride in a yellow minivan!