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[HanCinema's Hall of Fame Review] "Sex is Zero": A Gross-Out Comedy Korean Style

2013/08/24 | Permalink

In the Spotlight this Week: "Sex Is Zero" (2002) by JK Youn

This zany gross-out comedy came out late 2002 and showed just what happens when "My Sassy Girl" (2001) gets "American Pie" (1999) on its face. "Sex Is Zero" was a successful college comedy that followed two groups of the opposite sex and their multiple promiscuous collisions. The film's slapstick and dirty humour comes thick and fast and there are just as many stomach-churning moments here as there are provocative compositions and sequences. But "Sex Is Zero" is not all fun and games; director JK Youn ("Miracle on 1st Street" and "Haeundae") had no problems including some very heavy subject matter during the film's latter half, a shift that acts as a stark counterweight to some of film's more ludicrous antics and teasings.

Jang Eun-Sik is a hopeless 28-year old freshman that has his clumsy and awkward eyes on Eun-Hyo, a stunning young girl who playfully (and painfully) teases Eun-Sik – but rejects him all the same. During the film Eun-Sik absorbs an inhuman amount of physical and psychological punishment, and his sexual naivety and social impulses are constantly leading him from one embarrassing mishap to the next. These 'character slips' each come with their own spectacular, and often messy or damaging, results. Eun-hyo, on the other hand, has her gaze on a more popular and groomed suitor, but as her relationship gets more serious she finds herself alone and vunerable. The two both stand at the opposite ends of their respected groups. Eun-Sik is the errand boy for the school's 'Chayon Ryu' club (they basically just smash each other with boards), while Eun-Hyo is the envy of her trendy and attractive group of friends. Of course one would think that there would be no chance Eun-Sik would be able to worm his way into his dream girl's shallow heart, but Yoon does indeed find an entertaining path in this fast-paced comedic romp around campus.

"Sex Is Zero" was written and directed by one of Korea's most commercially successful directors JK Youn. His 2009 film "Haeundae", for example, claimed over 11 million admissions at the local box office, while his third feature ("Miracle on 1st Street") remains a popular fan favourite. Yoon's has also produced a host of popular features, such as "Dancing Queen" (2012), the action-packed "Quick" (2011), as well as the sequel effort "Sex Is Zero 2" (2007). "Sex Is Zero" was one of Yoon's early directing efforts, but even at this stage his preference for the fringes of genre and charcter types came through. A large percentage of his filmography now consists of melodramas and big budget action films, and in "Sex Is Zero" that same polarising curiosity is showcased in an intense mix of gross-out comedy and melodramatic mishaps.

"Sex Is Zero" is a fast and frantic film that is highly entertaining and stands as one of Korea's flagship sex comedies. The film can be equated to the popular American comedy "American Pie"; a film that itself was not well received in Korea but was given a Korean coat and core here. "Sex Is Zero" also has, rather surprisingly, an unnerving similarity to kwak Jae-Yong's "My Sassy Girl". But whether it is "America Pie" with the melodrama turned up, or "My Sassy Girl" with some sexy sleaze, "Sex Is Zero" is film that will most likely surprise, definitely sicken, and bound to make you a little hot under the collar.

- C.J. Wheeler (@KoreaOnTheCouch)

Available on DVD from YESASIA

DVD US (En Sub)

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