Family is very important in South Korea, but also in its entertainment. It often plays a big role in many genres. 'Descendants of Hong Gil-dong' combines a family comedy with action and adds to it an ensemble cast capable of handling both. The trick to making such combinations work is making each one matter in the progression of the other. The end result here is pretty satisfying.
On the surface, the Hongs are a model family. A housewife, a professor, a teacher and a student, all exemplary members of society. However, the Hongs are leading a double life as descendants of the legendary thief Hong Gil-dong, stealing from the rich to help the poor. This becomes a problem when Moo-hyeok (Lee Beom-soo) has to hide the truth from his girlfriend Song Yeon-hwa (Lee Si-young) while robbing a dangerous villain called Lee Jeong-min (Kim Soo-ro).
The great cast is really what elevates this otherwise typical action comedy. From Moo-hyeok's kind and cool parents played by Park In-hwan and Kim Ja-ok to Yeon-hwa's prosecutor brother portrayed by Sung Dong-il, they are a delightful bunch great with comedy and injecting soul into their characters. These characters really make the film very enjoyable, as everyone but Moo-hyeok himself is pretty delightfully odd, including the nerdy, but ruthless villain. The film uses this cast well, as a lot of the comedy and engagement depends on caring about the people involved and enjoying their mishaps.
These mishaps come in two fronts, one being the family aspect and the other the crime side. Aside from being the one who robs Lee Jeong-min, the hero is also the future brother-in-law to Song Jae-pil, the prosecutor mentioned above, who also happens to be the one in charge of taking the villain down. This makes the situation complicated and obviously a great one for constant hijinks and fun confrontations. The action part of the movie is also quite exciting and brings in some dark moments to keep the thrills going and plot moving, making everything go quite smoothly for a pleasant viewing experience.
Kim Soo-ro's role as the villain is certainly a big part of what makes the adventure fun. His character and the events around him are not without problems, however. As the movie is for audiences over 12 years old and a comedy, its villain is mostly a comic relief. On the other hand, the film does portray his murderous nature clearly. This darker function of him and the more serious parts of the work are hard to get invested in or take seriously, so there is some clashing between the comedy and crime parts.
Aside from the slight disconnect between the comedy and danger elements, the hero and villain rarely interact for most of the film. While Moo-hyeok is juggling his dual life, it is actually the secondary hero, Jae-pil who has more contact with the villain. This leads to a level of contrivance in order to make the main hero more involved. This wastes some of the potential for exciting confrontations which are important in such films.
'Descendants of Hong Gil-dong' is a bit too generic to call it an original or unique work. It does not do something very new, but what it offers is of great quality for what it is. It is a very funny and entertaining movie for teens and adults, it has a great cast which delivers on its smart and creative humor and it is definitely worth one's time.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Available on Amazon Instant and DVD
DVD US (En Sub)
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Descendants of Hong Gil-dong""
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