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Korean Movies Feed on Raw Action

2008/09/01 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

Action movies show the human body twisting in unimaginable ways and engage the audience in the art of primal combat. Here come two films, one about the making of an unconventional action movie, and the other which documents the stuntmen who help make such films possible.

"Rough Cut": Stranger than Fiction

Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris's famous fight scene has made the 1979 film "Way of the Dragon" an action classic. Onscreen duels between top actors sell well, as demonstrated in this year's box office hits like "Public Enemy Returns" starring maverick actors Sol Kyung-gu and Jung Jae-young. Another visible trend here is the "toughening up" of melodrama heroes. It seems to have become a rite of passage set by Jang Dong-gun, who proved he's more than just a pretty face by adopting a thug persona in "Friend". Joo Jin-mo ("a LOVE") and Song Seung-heon ("Fate") followed.

"Rough Cut" combines these two marking points, and features two handsome stars kicking and punching each other. So Ji-sub makes a comeback as Gang Pae (which sounds similar to the Korean word for "thug"), a gangster that once dreamed of being an actor (the movie doesn't forget to include a snippet of So playing an extra in the Korean classic "Green Fish"). Opportunity comes knocking at the door when he crosses paths with Su Ta (which literally means "hit with the hand" and played by Kang Ji-hwan), a movie star with a reputation of being a thug. After sending another one of his co-stars to the emergency room, desperate Su Ta asks Gang Pae to star in his movie. The real-life thug accepts, but on the condition that the action sequences be real.

Unlike Catherine Breillat's film about filmmaking "Sex is Comedy", the two's off screen animosity fuels the filmmaking process: Su Ta reprimands Gang Pae's acting skills and calls him a low life scum, while Gang Pae knocks out Su Ta on the set and teases him for making a living mimicking others. Will Su Ta be able to realize the script and beat Gang Pae in the final scene?

The film tests the fine line between fiction and reality. The tumble in the mud at the end had the two male leads, who are actually good friends, punching each other. Despite action schooling, the actors were unable to stick to the choreography in the slippery mud.

The fighting aside, the combat in terms of screen presence is also worth watching. So is unforgettable in his role as a gangster who is scary but also very soulful and sexy in his black Armani suits. Kang also brings a freshness from his TV breaks, but So's radiating charisma outshines him.

After working as assistant director for Kim Ki-duk (who wrote the screenplay), Jang Hoon makes his directorial debut with this fun, experimental film about real action.

"I was like the assistant director to director Bong", joked the director in a recent press preview about the film's characters, director Bong. Bong wishes to make a believable action movie, but ends up getting one that's all too real. The movie pokes fun at just about everything in the entertainment business, from the greedy producers to senseless directors and stuck up actresses. But it also sympathizes with stars unable to enjoy dates and other small pleasures in life.

"Rough Cut" has the jarring entertainment factor of "Fight Club" and the crude humor of "Sex is Comedy", but not without its own original color. It will be interesting to see the future works of director Jang. In theaters Sept. 11. 113 minutes. 15 and over. Distributed by STUDIO 2.0.

'Action Boys': Art of Stunt

In 2003, "Ong Bak" brought a new martial arts style to the big screen ― Muay Thai without wires. Tony Jaa's raw, bona fide action redefined how a martial arts movie could be crafted. New in theaters is a film about the nameless men who help make movies like "Rough Cut".

"Action Boys" documents the lives of five men, who are among the eight who make it through the hell training of action school. Se-jin must pay off a debt from getting a tattoo of a tiger on his back ― a fortuneteller had told him that his future depends on "piggybacking a tiger". Kwak Jin-seok became a hair stylist after falling in love with Winona Ryder in "Edward Scissor Hands" but now his best asset is his six-pack abs. Kwon Kwi-deok, who is skilled in freefalls and making cars flip over, is constantly falling off bridges and horses and recreating car accidents. While his high kick isn't perfect, Shin Sung-il-I makes the cut because of his good looks. Kwon Tae-ho, while the youngest of the five, boasts the best skills.

They are action heroes. The documentary provides more laughter than reality TV shows and more touching drama than fiction, as the camera follows around the five eccentric men from auditions to dangerous shoots, and moreover, the quiet time of the day when they reaffirm their love for action, which makes the life-risking acts worthwhile.

Since its appearance at Jeonju International Film Festival this year, the documentary is drawing ticket sales at a fast rate. It will also appear in film festivals in Vancouver, New York and Japan. 110 minutes. 12 and over. Distributed by Sang Sang Madang.

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