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Marrying the Mafia 2: Enemy in Law

Kim Won-Hee and Shin Hyun-Jun in Marrying the Mafia 2.
Year: 2005  
Director: Jung Young-Ki  
Producer: Jeong Tae-Won  
  Cast: Shin Hyun-Jun, Kim Won-Hee, Kim Su-Mi, Tak Jae-Hun, Lim Hyeong-Jun, Kong Hyeong-Jin, Shin Yi
  The Skinny: The eldest son in a prominent mobster family falls in love with a beautiful woman who's a dead ringer for his long-lost first love. One problem: she also happens to be a tough-as-nails criminal prosecutor with a knack for putting gangsters behind bars. Silly and tonally somewhat of a mess, Marrying the Mafia 2 is by far a more entertaining film than it has any right to be. It's fun, but let's be clear: it's fast food entertainment, no more, no less.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Jeong Young-Ki, director of the Asian horror flick The Doll Master, tries his hand at comedy with Marrying The Mafia 2: Enemy in Law, the hit 2005 sequel that was so popular it actually surpassed the impressive box office receipts of the 2002 film that spawned it. This wacky gangster comedy shifts its focus to a new mob family and centers on the marital situation of the clan's number one son, Jang In-Jae, played by actor Shin Hyun-Jun, last seen in High Dharma 2 and Face. It seems that In-Jae's mobster mother (Kim Soo-Mi) takes an active role in her three sons' lives. Whether it's faking her own kidnapping just to time their rescue attempts or simply trying to marry off In-Jae before he becomes an old bachelor, Mama Jang clearly wants to see her sons do well.
     However, the blind dates aren't working out for In-Jae, as no woman seems to compare to Jin-Sook, his beloved high school sweetheart. As luck would have it, after yet another unfulfilling blind date, In-Jae catches a glimpse of Kim Jin-Kyung (Kim Won-Hee), an attractive young woman who just so happens to be the spitting image of the dearly departed Jin-Sook But despite their similarities, Jin-Kyung isn't In-Jae's girlfriend come back to life, but is instead a chief prosecutor! In-Jae spies her just prior to her participation in a sting operation to take down a nefarious gangster, a man whose organization just so happens to be a rival of the Jang family. But when Jin-Kyung ends up drugged and defenseless, it's lucky for her that In-Jae is in the vicinity to step in and save the day. With Jin-Kyung knocked out cold, In-Jae has little option but to take her home until she awakens, a decision which, of course, results in the expected Three's Company-esque misunderstandings before a real romance between the two can properly develop.
     Strangely enough, from this point forward, the film becomes increasingly bipolar in terms of tone. In one respect, it becomes a wacky "anything goes" comedy worthy of the best and worst of Wong Jing's oeuvre, full of out-of-place boob jokes and over-the-top penis sight gags that literally have to be seen to be believed. In the case of the latter, at one point, In-Jae's member gets injured so badly that he's forced to wear protective gear during his day-to-day activities. Here's the rub: the resultant bulge makes it seem like he's happy to see, well, just about everyone. The former joke involves legal eagle Jin-Kyung stealing some confiscated Chinese breast enhancement cream, which she eventually applies to her pixyish frame, only to find that there really was a reason why her office confiscated it in the first place. The film also contains some amusing flashbacks, including one in which In-Jae suspiciously resembles a spastic Howie Mandel! Other jokes rely heavily on Korean pop culture references, which while perhaps funny for native speakers, will likely go directly over the heads of non-Korean audience members, this reviewer included. Even so, there are plenty of funny moments that aren't lost in translation, one of the best being a situation in which the ultra suave In-Jae comically loses his cool when a romantic trip to the movie theatre goes horribly awry.
     But even as all this utter zaniness is going on, there's actually something quite curious occurring in between the laughs - a fairly serious story about a mobster who's grown tired of his criminal life and longs for something more. Genuinely worried about what his lawyer girlfriend thinks and concerned for her career, he turns over a new leaf, but finds himself thwarted at every turn, first by his own brothers, and later by his criminal rivals. It's a testament to Shin Hyun-Jun's acting ability that these constant shifts in tone don't prove off-putting. Even as his character's personality haphazardly shifts to suit the demands of the script, he's able to deliver a convincing performance as a badass gangster, as a horny and somewhat infantile man-child, and even as a handsome romantic lead. Shin Hyun-Jun plays each "type" with considerable aplomb, which helps make the somersaults in tone bearable, if not entirely believable.
     The conflicts, both personal and professional, within the film comes to a climactic head when a vicious crime boss frames the three Jang brothers, and they are put on trial by Jin-Kyung's colleague/wannabe boyfriend (Kong Hyeong-Jin). After learning of In-Jae's criminal past, will Jin Kyung defend her boyfriend in court? Or will she leave him high and dry? Of course, anyone even remotely familiar with filmic conventions will know exactly what will happen next, as the film climaxes with a trial that's somewhat reminiscent of Stephen Chow's early courtroom comedies. Sure, the ending comes courtesy of an altogether convenient deus ex machina, but if you've been laughing hard enough at that point, Marrying the Mafia 2 probably won't warrant that level of scrutiny.
     Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Marrying The Mafia 2: Enemy in Law is how the character of the Jang family matriarch is handled. From her overdone makeup and larger than life presence in the opening sequence, one almost expects a cutthroat Mafioso-type, who would stop at nothing to break up her son's relationship with the lawyer, perhaps even going to extreme measures to protect her own interests. At the very least, considering how Korean comedies and melodramas tend to play out, one would expect some major league conflict between mother and daughter-in-law that may or may not result in reconciliation. But here, that's not the case at all. Thankfully, the film doesn't ask its audience to jump through these tired formulaic hoops. Rather than give us the typical domineering old harridan who thinks that no woman - particularly the story's heroine - is good enough for her boy, we get a mother who just wants her son to be happy. When he's found the love of his life, she just has to figure out a way to make her family come off as the Korean version of the Cleavers, a deception that proves to have fairly comic results.
     Although the plot could use some work, and the romance could have been developed further, the fact remains that I did laugh quite a bit during Marrying the Mafia 2. It's wacky fluff with an occasional serious edge, but thanks to a strong performance from leading man Shin Hyun-Jun, Marrying The Mafia 2: Enemy in Law is a gangster comedy worth taking a shot at. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 0 NTSC (Marked Region 3)
Spectrum DVD
2-Disc Special Edition DTS
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
DTS / Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Extras including Trailers, TV Spots, Music Videos, Interviews, Photo Gallery, and More
   Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen