The plot is typical star-crossed lovers stuff. First, Cheol-soo (played by Hong Jong-hyun) is the son of two supervillains. Well they're not really supervillains but Dal-sik (played by Shin Jung-geun) and Yeong-mi (played by Park Eun-hye) have crime-committing abilities so superpowered they might as well be. Luckily "Enemies In-Law" is a comedy, so I don't need to do anything as ridiculous as criticize this movie for featuring a small army of crime dogs- that is, dogs that commit crimes, not dogs that solve crimes.
Instead, unevenness is the main problem here. Sometimes the jokes are funny, and sometimes they aren't. Mostly this is just a matter of build-up. Dal-sik and Yeong-mi also have the ability to pull off improbably effective disguises- and the spacing is just wide enough that I keep forgetting that they can do this right in time to be surprised by the next joke. The magic knock-out dust is also well-used.
It's everything else that's the problem. Yeong-hee (played by Jin Se-yeon) is the other half of the star-crossed lovers, and her family is made up of cops. Not supercops, unfortunately. That would have been a lot more fun. They're just normal cops who are rather frustratingly and easily bamboozled. Yeong-hee, for example, is established early on as being a master of fencing, yet the only payoff we get for this is an uninspiring sequence where she practically goes down without a joke- I mean a fight.
When comedies go absurd, they really need to go all-the-way absurd, and "Enemies In-Law" suffers mainly from a lack of proper dedication. A late subplot is actually technically the main plot of the movie- but when all the action to date has been about the rather petty attempts of the families to try and separate Cheol-soo and Yeong-hee, it's really hard to get invested in a tonal shift that expects us to take things seriously. Even if there is a joke hidden in there somewhere.
"Enemies In-Law" is decently funny when it tries to be, but ultimately the movie is just too long to be that amusing, and I couldn't help but be disappointed that the script had to pull a villain out of nowhere rather than keep the focus on the inter-familial conflict, which is really where it belongs. "Enemies In-Law" is the kind of movie that's only as good as its jokes, and these really only work that well as far as the more competent characters go.
Still, this probably isn't a movie that deserves to be judged too harshly. It's a very commercial picture- I don't mean that as an insult necessarily, it's just that there's sequences here that are obviously more for titillation than anything else. Like the entire bikini auction. I don't have anything against hot women in bikinis on general principle, but I kind of feel like we're being shifted in that department when we never even get to see Hong Jong-hyun with his shirt off for that long. I mean come on movie. It's bad enough that the women don't get as many good jokes as the men do- why do they have to be the ones to take off their clothes?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Enemies In-Law""
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