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  Iron Palm  
Iron Palm

Kim Yoon-Jin and Cha In-Pyo spar in Iron Palm.
Year: 2002  
Director: Yuk Sang-Hyo  
Cast: Cha In-Pyo, Kim Yoon-Jin, Park Kwang-Jung, Charles Chun, Angelines Santana  
The Skinny: This well-produced romantic comedy has a fine comic tone and engaging performances. The plot is rather loose and far-fetched, and the film itself amounts to very little, but on the whole Iron Palm can be enjoyable.  
by Kozo:

     Gyeongdal (Cha In-Pyo) is most definitely a fictional character. A fiercely determined fellow, he arrives in Los Angeles chasing his wayward girlfriend Jinnie (Kim Yoon-Jin of the blockbuster Shiri) armed with only an address and a basic understanding of English. Sadly, Jinnie is nowhere to be seen, but Gyeongdal won't give up hope. He visits every soju bar in town and blows Jinnie's old high-school band whistle to find his lost love. He's also thrown away his old Korean life in hopes of being with Jinnie forever. To wit, he will only speak in (poor) English, and throws away the name Gyeongdal entirely. His new name: "Iron Palm". His goal: to find and marry Jinnie. His journey: incredibly silly and far-fetched, though not without its charms.
     Iron Palm gets his name from the Shaolin martial art he practices. However, he's adapted the art to modern times by shoving his fists into a rice cooker filled with freshly steamed rice. This is supposed to show us that Iron Palm has incredible determination and resolve, and will refuse to give up even in the bleakest of circumstances. He certainly gets his chance, as he finds Jinnie with a new boyfriend named Admiral Lee (Charlie Chun), and proceeds to maintain his stance that Jinnie is his one-and-only. He refuses to go away, and instead of the likely restraining order, Iron Palm gets a new chance with his old girlfriend.
     Director Yuk Sang-Hyo's comedy has a straight, subdued comic tone, which proves engaging since Iron Palm is such a broadly drawn character. His cartoonish determination makes him a likable character, and seeing him interact with Los Angeles can be incredibly funny. However, this all grinds to a halt as soon as Jinnie and Admiral enter the picture fulltime. The resulting love triangle relies on some far-fetched situational comedy and some questionable characters, which can only drag the film down.
     Part of this is due to Jinnie's difficult character. She's supposed to be incredibly desirable (a quality which the attractive Kim Yoon-Jin can handle), but her indecision can tax an audience's patience. She strings both guys along in a drawn-out series of comic mishaps, but the fact that she can't choose either costs her sympathy points. Boyfriend Admiral Lee comes off even worse. He may do the occasional nice thing, but overall he seems like an incredible heel and not someone that Jinnie should even consider. So, why does she stick with him?
     This leaves us with Iron Palm. His character is inherently likable because he's such a dope. He may practice a martial art, but he consistently gets beaten up. And, he can't drink, which means funny stuff aplenty when he downs some soju. However, his one-note desire for Jinnie can prove tiring too, especially since the movie clocks in at two hours. As such, the situations get dragged out to their inevitable conclusion, which invoves numerous plot devices, including a soju mixing contest, Las Vegas, a shotgun wedding, and Iron Palm's quest for a working visa. One almost expects Nicholas Cage to parachute in with a bunch of flying Elvis impersonators.
     Still, the performers are engaging. Cha In-Pyo is likable and self-effacing as Iron Palm, and despite her frustrating character, Kim Yoon-Jin is fine too. The copious English dialogue can be annoying (especially from Admiral Lee), as it's uninspired and delivered stiffly, but the actors do their best with it. Their performances are earnest and occasionally a little overdone, which provides a nice counterpoint to director Yuk Sang-Hyo's straight comic tone.
     In the end, Iron Palm doesn't really amount to much. There are questions of identity and belonging, but they're neatly swept aside for the egregiously drawn-out romance plotline. And, the manufactured and sometimes too-easy plot devices may be annoying to some. Still, the film's generous pace and engaging tone prevent outright manipulation, and the comedy can be agreeable. Iron Palm is far from perfect (and probably should have been shortened by a few minutes), but what's left should be enough for most people. (Kozo 2002)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean/English Language Track
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English and Korean Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen