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My Boss, My Teacher
AKA: My Boss, My Student


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean (w/Japanese) Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Music Video

Year: 2006
Director: Kim Dong-Won
Cast: Jung Joon-Ho, Jung Wung-In, Jung Woon-Taek, Kim Sang-Jung, Han Hyo-Joo, Choi Yoon-Young
The Skinny: The sequel to the hit Korean gangster comedy is larger than ever, but it's also so stuffed with subplots that it loses focus along the way. At least it's still funny --that is, if you don't mind watching people get smacked around for two hours.
Kevin Ma:

     When we last saw Gye Doo-Shik in the 2001 Korean gangster comedy My Boss My Hero, he was a second-in-command gangster who was forced by his boss to get a high school diploma in order to move up the mob ladder. There, he was subjected to bullies, rival gangs, and various forms of corporal punishment. The film became a mega-hit and was etched forever into Korean pop culture history as a leading example of South Korea's popular gangster comedy genre. Five years later, Doo-Shik and company return for more of the same in the sequel My Boss, My Teacher. This time, there's more of everything - a larger cast, more subplots, more violence, more gangsters, etc. Even the screen is wider. The result is a true blockbuster that brought twice the box office gross of its predecessor (as of now, it is the second highest-grossing Korean film of 2006), but is the rise in earnings reflected in quality as well?
      Jeong Jun-Ho returns as Gye Doo-Shik, who's now a gangster with a high school degree. However, after being pressured to earn a college degree by his boss, Doo-Shik sends his right hand man Sang-Do instead, who impersonates Doo-Shik as a charming college student. Meanwhile, dumb-but-loyal lieutenant Dumb-Garl (this is only according to the subtitles. The character's actual name is Dae Ka-ri) comes up with new ways to embarrass his boss, earning constant punishment from both Doo-Shik and his bossy wife for his stupidity. Perhaps inspired by the hit Japanese manga franchise Gokusen, Doo-Shik is discovered by his boss and is forced to finish the degree himself via a student teacher program at a local high school, where he teaches a class on, what else, ethics.
     On the first day of class, Doo-Shik realizes that his boss, looking to complete his own high school education, has unknowingly enrolled in the class as a student. Ordered to treat his boss the same as his fellow students, Doo-Shik now has to protect his boss from other bullies, while also subjecting his boss to various forms of corporal punishments. Doo-Shik also has to worry about a deal with the Hong Kong triads being disrupted by the incompetent Sang-Do and Dumb-Garl. To add even more to the mess, there's a tough female teacher smitten with Doo-Shik, a troubled female student that Doo-Shik befriends, and a staple in all gangster films, the rival gang. If you think reading that was exhausting, try writing about it.
     My Boss, My Teacher is essentially a 90-minute film trapped in a 120-minute one. Director Kim Dong-Won (taking over director and co-screenwriter duties from original director-writer Yun Je-Gyun) crams as many subplots into the film as possible. The result may be a slightly more enjoyable experience than its brutal precdecessor, but it's also an unnecessarily convoluted one. In fact, My Boss, My Teacher becomes so overstuffed that you may forget the existence of a plot halfway through. Fans of Jeong Jun-Ho may be glad to see him dishing out the punishment instead of taking it, but that's what he spends the whole movie doing: being boss and teacher while punishing people left and right. Rarely does the audience ever see him teach, leading one to wonder why he doesn't get fired. The fact that he becomes a well-liked teacher makes even less sense.
     Then again, forget logic and plot; My Boss, My Teacher is out to make people laugh, and it occasionally does that. If you're a fan of people getting punished in all kinds of humorous ways, then My Boss, My Teacher is for you. It indulges in finding new ways to beat someone up --and in true Korean comedy style, no one ever seems to need any medical attention after getting hit repeatedly. But that's ok, the film is filled with funny, if not somewhat redundant gags. Rather than following a coherent plot, each scene simply becomes a new excuse for someone to get punished for something. The franchise's theme is that one must always respect his boss, his father, and his teacher, but it's replaced here by another theme: that being in high school and being in the mob can suck equally.
     Nevertheless, Kim and the cast do have impeccable comic timing, which must've been one of the deciding factors in its box office success. The Korean verbal humor gets lost in translation every once in a while, but the physical humor is largely the highlight of the film. Apart from a strange out-of-nowhere parody of The Classic and a somewhat strained finale, Kim Dong-won is not afraid to wait, pushing the film's comic tension far enough such that each laugh comes at just the right moment. Kim may not have his pacing down, as several unnecessary subplots slow the film down unnecessarily, but he definitely has a future in comedy.
     A film like My Boss, My Teacher is essentially critic-proof. It's utterly absurd and overlong, the plot is more complicated that it needs to be, and the third act dramatic twist is as contrived as they come. However, the film features familiar characters in familiar situations, and it actually makes the audience laugh more often than most Korean comedies do these days. It may not become a classic like the first film, but as far as Korean comedies go, My Boss, My Teacher is a flawed, but enjoyable ride. (Kevin Ma 2006)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen