Kang Hyeong-cheol's debut feature "Speedy Scandal" was the hottest Korean film of 2008. The movie outplayed stellar titles (such as "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" and "The Chaser") to become the 8th highest grossing film at the time with over 8.2 million admissions going its way. This jocular and jazzy comedy was also given its dues at local award ceremonies, where Kang and actress Park Bo-young walked away with a number of accolades in the Best Director and Best New Actress categories. Only recently was the film pushed out of Korea's all-time top ten, but Kang's opening act still remains Korea's most profitable out-and-out K-comedy in history.
Nam Hyeon-soo (played by Cha Tae-hyun from "Hello Ghost") is a hot-headed radio host living it up as a highly successful radio DJ. He lives by himself in a swank apartment with electric blinds, a robot vacuum cleaner, an exotic fish tank, and all his food is neatly labelled for the week. Hyeon-soo is head deep in a glamorous bachelor lifestyle, but after encouraging a single mother on air to seek out her father his worldview gets turned upside-down as the mysterious woman rocks up at his pad. Hwang Jeong-nam (Park Bo-young) and her son Ki-dong (Wang Suk-hyun) claim to be Hyeon-soo's daughter and grandson, which makes this playboy a grandfather with some serious catching up to do.
Hyeong-soo is flawed at the news, and realises that this scandal could have serious implications for him at the office. After a confirmatory blood test Hyeon-soo reluctantly decides to let the two stay but tries to keep them from his interrupting his career. Of course it's hard to hide such a secret for very long, and soon Hyeong-soo has to decide what's more important to him: his position at the radio station, or his newly discovered and loving family.
"Speedy Scandal" is a slick, fast-paced, and extremely tight tale that was almost impossible not to enjoy. Seeing Cha Tae-hyun as this obnoxious and immature young man provided many chuckles and he attempted to deal with the harsh reality of becoming a grandfather literally overnight. The role seems so fitting for Tae-hyeon, and it is no surprising that two years later he would star in a similar role in the popular comedy drama "Hello Ghost"-a film that remains one of favourite Korea comedies. His tubular lips and expressiveness screams comedy at every turn, and in "Speedy Scandal" he delivers a fantastic performance alongside the young, equally impressive, Bo-yeong.
Park Bo Yeong has been particularly busy the past few years, appearing in such film as "A Werewolf Boy", "Don't Click", and her latest film (Lee Yeon-woo's "Hot Young Bloods") is currently out on circuit and approaching 2 million admissions. In "Speedy Scandal" her performance as a very young single mother was delightful, putting on just enough pout combined with a streaks of stubborn seriousness that played well off of Tae-hyeon's comedic antics. There are some classic moments between the two of them and it was a pleasure to see their onscreen chemistry bubble and boil over. The young talent did seem a little less convincing when it came down to tears, but the film treads gentle over these times in general.
The story explores what it takes to take responsibility as a man as all the main characters' were suffering from the absence of their fathers. "Speedy Scandal" did a praise-worthy job of integrating this theme into its watertight narrative, but I generally found the female character's lacking substance and a third dimension. The women are simply curious eye-candy and placed in typical roles, but despite this lack the film still managed to reel me and provoked enough empathy not to be too distracted by the gender confinements and clichés. This 'absent father' notion was the film's main thrust though, and all things considered it was amusing and entertaining ride all the way to its, arguably excessive, feel-good dénouement.
Many will perhaps instantly recall "My Sassy Girl" when the K-comedy genre is brought up, but besides "Miracle in Cell No.7" (which I would say falls more on the melodramatic side of things) "Speedy Scandal" is actually the most successful Korea comedy of all-time, and for that reason I chose to feature it here on HanCinema's Hall of Fame. I thoroughly enjoyed the film for what it was, and even though there were some rather convenient encounters and unrealistic character set-ups, "Speedy Scandal" delivers where it matter most.
Director Kang Hyeong-cheol also went on to make another one of my favourite Korean dramas "Sunny - 2010", and his third feature ("Tazza: The Hidden Card") should be coming out sometime this year. The man has a keen cinematic sense and an incredible control of narrative and pacing; a skillset that really came through in "Speedy Scandal" and hopefully he will be able to continue to showcase and enchant us in the near future.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from YESASIA
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