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Guns and Talks
Year: 2001

Shin Hyun-June
Director: Jang Jin
Writer: Jang Jin
Cast: Shin Hyun-June, Shin Ha-kyun, Won Bin, Jeong Jae-Yeong, Jeong Jin-Yeong
The Skinny: A comedy about four friends who just happen to be assassins, Jang Jin's film
works by the sheer will of the direction and writing alone.
by RainDog:

     As one of the characters gives his opening monologue — which is set to upbeat jazz — he mentions how one of his fellow assassins takes confession at his church. Cut to his friend telling a priest, "This week my work wasn't much. I killed about five people." The priest thinks about it and replies, "What?" Then, in good-natured amazement, "That's a whole basketball team…" This exchange gets Guns and Talks started. As the film proper begins, the professional killers — there are four in all, and all young and good-looking — go to assassinate four businessmen with plan needlessly complicated by typical movie-logic (though some of it, including a special effect shot of a rifle bullet passing through the side windows of two cars to hit its target, is pretty if not terribly original). As a serious action movie with a realistic storyline, Guns and Talks fails terribly.
     Luckily, it's an off-kilter comedy, and the humor carries the movie. For example, the four assassins never miss watching the morning news together in their house. It's certainly not because they like to keep on top of things, because they're so enraptured by the pretty newswoman on TV that they remain completely clueless about the events in the world around them. Each scene lives or dies this way, one after the next, and it's to Jang Jin's credit that the scenes work more often than not. Other moments that aren't as strong use split screens, fourth-wall violations, and unreliable narration (that opening monologue isn't the only time that character provides his input) to carry them through.
     Guns and Talks should be approached with caution by anyone who demands that a story carry a movie. On the whole, for better or worse, how much the viewer enjoys the individual scenes is how much the viewer will like this movie. There isn't much in the way of action. The movie is more a number of set pieces involving the four leads as they deal with a number of side-stories both by themselves and as a group. During the course of the film the protagonists have to deal with a persistent schoolgirl who wants them to do a job for her, a cute target one of the assassins has a hard time taking out, a police detective who's on to them, and a difficult hit for a special client. All in all, the story holds together, though the ending and a few of the scenes (like the elaborate hit at the start), strain credulity.
     Sang-Yeon (Shin Hyun-June), the leader of the group, puts in the best performance, if only because he has the most to work with and has "cool" down to an art form. The rest of the cast is good too, but generally suffer from stereotypical roles (the maverick cop, the impulsive member of the gang, the protégé, etc.). The assassins end up being pretty lovable, the female roles pretty vulnerable, and the villains pretty unpleasant, but just barely so.
     What's refreshing is that the four killers aren't moody or desperate to get out of the business. There's not a single scene that seriously contemplates the morality of their actions, seeks some kind of redemption, or, conversely, slips into a goofy satire of the genre. And contrary to what other movies dealing with guns-for-hire would have you think, this doesn't make them monsters. Guns and Talks is, after all, a comedy. For the most part, it's pretty easy to accept the conceits of the film: that the men they assassinate deserve it, that there's apparently a lot of work for hired killers in Korea, and that this line of work isn't too out-of-the-ordinary for these characters. There's certainly enough style, oddball humor, and good-natured characters to recommend this movie. Just don't expect a seven-course meal. (RainDog 2002)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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 Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen