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Mission Sex Control
AKA: Live Good
Lee Bum-Soo and Kim Jung-Eun
Year: 2006
Director: Ahn Ji-Woo
  Cast: Lee Bum-Soo, Kim Jung-Eun, Byeon Hee-Bong, Jeon Mi-Seon, Ahn Nae-Sang, Woo Hyeon, Jo Hee-Bong, Park Joon-Myeon, Kim Soo-H, Jeong Jae-Jin, Kim Jin-Goo, Oh Jee-Hye
  The Skinny: An enjoyable and innocent comedy about sex for two-thirds of the way. Then, as the saying goes: IT ALL GOES TO HELL.
Kevin Ma:

     In the 1970s, in fear of overpopulation impeding its quick economic growth, the South Korean government decided to set up a birth control policy promoting the use the contraceptives to curb rocketing fertility rates. This is the basic background for Mission Sex Control, a new attempt by Korean filmmakers to cash in on collective nostalgia in the form of an often amusing, but uneven comedy about a small rural village's attempt to undo its reputation as the area with the highest fertility rate. More of a coming-of-age story of an entire village rather than another low-brow sex comedy or an honest exploration into life under a military dictatorship, Mission Sex Control has its heart in the right place, but sadly falls beneath the weight of overwhelming melodrama and ridiculous contrivances.
     In order to lower fertility rate in the village of Yongduri, the government assigns family planning counselor Hyun-Joo (popular drama actress Kim Jung-Eun) to the small village to promote the use of contraceptives. However, Hyun-Joo's initial attempts fail because when people hear "zero fertility," they think "end of bloodline." So she decides to go for their pockets, promoting birth control as a means to prosperity - and money means having a better life. Enlisting the help of villager Suk-Gu (Lee Bum-Soo), her message begins to spread among the villagers. However, when the wife of junior village chief Chang-Su, who has yet to bore a son, is found to be taking birth control pills, Suk-Gu's land is taken away and he loses his livelihood. Hyun-Joo, using her bureaucratic influences, gets Suk-Gu appointed as the village chief. At a public meeting with the president, Suk-Gu even cuts a deal such that if Yongduri has zero birth, then the town's debts will be canceled. With Hyun-Joo's help, Suk-Gu's clever scheming brings about a period of prosperity with government subsidies, free contraception, and no births. However, as the saying goes, IT ALL GOES TO HELL.
     Mission Sex Control opens amusingly as a portrait of an uneducated village's attempt to modernize itself. While scene after scene of villagers misusing contraceptives borders on lowbrow, the film is still an often funny look at the beginning of sex education in a conservative culture. Whenever the script begins to grow redundant, writer/director Ahn Ji-Woo finds new directions to take the film to keep things fresh and engaging. This works for the first two acts of the film, when Suk-Gu and his sometimes hopelessly foolish fellow villagers find new ways to live up to their deal.
     However, when the third act rolls around, Ahn tests the audience's investment into the characters (not to mention their patience) with a set of twists that literally drains the comedy out of the film. Mission Sex Control begins to spiral out of control, as misunderstandings and red herrings mount up to an absurd climax where characters commit actions beyond their established personalities only to drive the film to an unneeded resolution. When the smoke clears, the explanation comes only in the form of verbal exposition that fails to explain the reason for everything, clearly exposing the script's own contrivances. Even though Ahn uses the character of Chang-Su to foreshadow certain bad things, the central third act twist of Mission Sex Control literally comes out of left field. Just when I thought Mission Sex Control could overcome the trappings of a lowbrow sex comedy, it becomes a stereotypical Korean melodrama in a failed attempt to earn genuine emotions. Note to Korean filmmakers: putting your characters through misery in the final act doesn't always get the audience teary-eyed; sometimes it just pisses them off.
     Thankfully, there is still plenty of amusement to be found when watching Mission Sex Control, as it does have many genuinely funny moments and characters that are easy to root for. That's why I'm even more displeased at the third act, where the comedic potential earned by the first 75 minutes is literally thrown out the window. Even when it tries to recapture the audience with a happy ending, the resolution fails to satisfy and only begs the question "why didn't they just do that in the first place?!" It may be completely absurd, and it may not be very accurate as a portrayal of life in 70s South Korea, but Mission Sex Control, despite its artificial qualities, does have enough laughs to earn a look. At least when all else fails, it's still a pretty good sex education lesson. (Kevin Ma 2007)

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Fantom Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Korean subtitles
Making-of, interviews, TV Spots, etc.
  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen