Much-hyped pseudosequel disappointing
How many times do we have to watch Jun Ji-hyun, Korea's undisputed top actress, playing a quirky, mischievous girl in a Romantic Comedy
? Director kwak Jae-Yong
, who catapulted Jun to Pan-Asian stardom with his previous hit, "My Sassy Girl
" (2001), might say proudly: "The answer, my audience, is blowing in the wind".
But the audience - especially those who enjoyed the first film's inventive plot and impressive acting - may find the wind a bit repetitive and irritating in this much-hyped pseudosequel, in which the highlight is undoubtedly Jun's attractiveness. Then again, that may be what a majority of the audience wants to see anyway.
", officer Yeo Kyung-jin (Jun Ji-hyun) pretends to be a tough policewoman, but she is not very competent at first. One day, while pursuing a mugger, she picks up the wrong guy. It turns out that Go Myung-woo (Jang Hyuk), a newly hired physics teacher at an all-girls' high school, was actually chasing the mugger. He is soon cleared and released.
Soon Myung-woo returns to the police station as part of a program in which teachers help officers patrol the streets at night. Guess what? He teams up with - surprise, surprise - Kyung-jin, and the two have a chance to get closer. A series of scenes designed for comic relief follow, and a couple of them seem to work.
In "My Sassy Girl
", the male lead, Kyun-woo, visits a college classroom to deliver a gift to the hot-tempered girl played by Jun. In "Windstruck
", the opposite situation is presented as Kyung-jin visits Myung-woo's classroom and cracks a joke about their relationship in front of his students.
But somehow Myung-woo's character is not strong enough. Although Jang Hyuk is definitely one of the top Korean actors - wildly popular among high school girls with his handsome face and cool style - he's not as funny as Cha Tae-hyun, who played Kyun-woo. (Cha also makes a cameo in this film, and given the audience's reaction to his sudden appearance, he seems more popular than Jang.)
Instead of well-crafted characterization, director Kwak sticks to the tried-and-true formula of capturing Jun's beautiful image as often as possible. Even donning a police uniform, she is sexy and stylish, dominating the screen with her characteristic smile suggestive of mischief and innocence. Perhaps the number of applications from aspiring policewomen will go up after the movie is released nationwide tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the film is peppered with too many product placements. Since Jun is a rising star throughout Asia, advertisers are so eager to capitalize on her popularity that all the things she advertises on television - a brand of yogurt, a T-shirt, you name it - pop up with annoying frequency. During the premiere in Seoul, some people in the audience laughed louder at the sight of such unabashed advertising than they did when they were supposed to laugh.
The film sets a new milestone in Korean cinema as it is scheduled to be released on about 190 screens in 57 theaters in Hong Kong and some 300 screens here. It is also set to open in mainland China on June 11. Though the wide release deserves accolades, the film shifts too quickly toward uninteresting chase scenes and a shooting spree - the result of a desire so strong on Kyung-jin's part to catch criminals that it leads to tragedy. One day, she decides to chase a criminal who is notorious for his vicious acts. Myung-woo, who has been helping Kyung-jin get out of trouble, joins the chase.
Even before the plot builds up to the tragic moment, the audience is prepared for Myung-woo's death. For Myung-woo says he wants to turn into wind if he dies. The self-fulfilling wish is made when he stretches his two arms, making a Titanic posture together with Kyung-jin on a mountaintop with the wind blowing hard.
The last part of the film is nothing but tear-jerking melodrama. When Kyung-jin repeatedly screams "Myung-woooo!" one cannot help but compare the moment with "Kyun-woooo!" in "My Sassy Girl
When Jun cries, the audience initially reacts positively. But what's really sad is that the director uses these emotional moments too generously, in a way that makes viewers squirm in their seats.
Thanks to effective marketing and the dearth of competitors, "Windstruck
" is bound to perform strongly at the box office in its opening week. But after that, it seems a tad hard to predict which way the wind will blow, since the sequel fails to deliver the original's trademark mixture of genuine comic relief and heartwarming romance.