Despite the prominence of Irene in promotional material for "Double Patty" this really is Shin Seung-ho's movie. Which is fortunate, since Shin Seung-ho absolutely shines as the frankly dopey twenty-one year old traditional Korean wrestler Woo-ram. While Woo-ram has a fantastic physique, he has generally poor judgment- both of which are on full display in early setpieces where the musclehead finds himself working at a gay bar.
Woo-ram isn't a very smart guy. And why would he be? His lifelong dream is to be a traditional Korean wrestler, not study particle physics. Well, that was his dream anyway. As the reasonably sad opening establishes, Woo-ram's having trouble keeping himself together emotionally following the death of his mentor.
So where does Irene come into this? For the most part she doesn't. Despite "Double Patty" appearing to be a romance a surprisingly long time goes without having our leads meet. While Woo-ram is off having mostly harmless misadventures, Irene's character, Hyeon-ji, works hard toward her own lifelong dream of becoming a reporter. Making your dream a reality is tough work, that for people like Hyeon-ji, tends to necessitate a lot of long nights working at a franchise burger restaurant.
We see a lot of little moments with slight influences on Woo-ram. None of them are immediately important but they do add up to helping us understand who he really is. Woo-ram really likes to eat, even if it's food other people don't consider edible. He's not much of a talker, but he comes from a big family. He has a surprisingly well-developed sense of right and wrong yet also tends to favor flight over fight.
The irony is obvious, given that traditional Korean wrestling is all about fighting. And that's the whole conflict. Woo-ram is so passive and evasive it takes forever for him to really start talking to Hyeon-ji. When that moment finally happens, though, a whole lot just clicks. I don't even mean in the romantic sense. Hyeon-ji's gentle encouragement and spontaneity is exactly what Woo-ram needs to get his head back in the game of life.
The benefit Hyeon-ji gets out of this is far more subtle, which may be why she's so out of focus for so much of the movie. Hyeon-ji lacks confidence. She's not sure she's good enough to be a reporter. Woo-ram just lacks mental fortitude. So as Hyeon-ji encourages Woo-ram to just move forward, so too does Hyeon-ji realize that she just needs to stay positive and focused on her goal.
"Double Patty" is not a movie with a particularly impressive amount of depth but it makes up for this with strong breadth. The movie has strong performances, a colorful supporting cast, and a wonderfully dark sense of mood- not in tone, but in the way the cinematography uses nighttime shading, emptiness, and quiet in general to just establish a certain kind of mood. Woo-ram isn't miserable but he is in a rut, and the symbolism of how he escapes from it is quite well done.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Double Patty""
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