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My Boss, My Hero
Year: 2001 "Who's your daddy?"
from My Boss, My Hero
Director: Yoon Je-Kyun
Writer: Yoon Je-Kyun
Cast: Jung Joon-Ho, Jeong Wung-In, Jeong Woon-Taek, Oh Seung-Eun, Park Joon-Kyu, Kim Sang-Joong
The Skinny: A fish-out-of-water comedy with a surprising amount of violence and plot and characters and drama and karaoke and… Don't like the weather? Hang around a few minutes.
by RainDog:
     Kye Doo-Sik (Jung Joon-Ho) has a problem. He's a good gang boss, having quickly risen through the ranks, but when a higher position opens up he finds himself hitting a glass ceiling. Unless he can at least finish high school, his boss tells him, he'll never get beyond his current position. It seems that most of the bigger bosses had at least some college education. So off to a private high school he goes.
     The gang story in My Boss, My Hero is largely ignored except for a big gang-fight ending. Instead, the focus is on the story inside the school. One teacher is tough but fair, while another teacher is very competent but sexually harassed. One student is a bully, another is the class bitch, and yet another needs a scholarship to go to college (the class bitch's family influence stands in the way). There's even a transsexual for comic relief. Doo-sik's two lieutenants (one an idiot, the other competent) support their boss from the sidelines and frequently get entangled in the situation. At first, Doo-sik plays the role of the student to the hilt, even allowing himself to be the victim of the bully and otherwise taking all the abuse the Korean school system has to offer (which is apparently a lot if this movie is to be believed). Then, it's time for him to start beating everyone up.
     For a comedy, there's a great deal of violence. Not just slapstick, either, but full beat-down-bloody, trip-to-the-hospital violence. Doo-sik takes his lumps and dishes them out frequently to his idiot sidekick, who takes it out on the people below him. The teachers smack around the students and are in turn smacked around by the parents and gang members. The women in the movie are smacked around just as much as the men. I wish I could justify all this violence as having a point, but it doesn't really come off that way. It's just violence, and frequently surprising.
     Despite this, My Boss, My Hero plays like an entire TV season of Asian school comedy/drama compressed into 98 minutes. There are many side characters, each with their own personality quirks, and many are fleshed out from one-dimensionality with a dark secret or two. The main plot is frequently buried under all the side-plots and scenes of no importance. The direction is workman-like, with very few frills or embellishment. There's a least two or three times when everyone cries—dramatically. And, there's no question that everything is going to work out in the end.
     Overall there's an embarrassment of plot, which might explain why the first half of the film—as they set up all the basic characters and conflicts—drags a little. What follows is a mishmash of filmmaking styles, with short scenes that last only a minute or two each. For every scene that's genuinely engaging or funny, there's one that forces the story forward. The wild card is Jung Joon-Ho as the lead. Having appeared in only a few films prior to this, he nonetheless possesses a good range of emotion and some screen presence and charm. High school student Doo-Sik is meek and confused; crime boss Doo-Sik is cool, tough and competent. Most of the other actors are good as well, even if many of them are stuck with monochrome characters. Furthermore, I'd be remiss to my Y-chromosome if I didn't point out that there are a lot of pretty women.
     Still, this is not really a good movie. It's all over the place in terms of plot, pacing and tone, and tries to do way too much in its allotted running time. However, it's not a bad movie to watch. Taken piecemeal, there's good humor, good acting, enjoyable fights, pretty actors, and a very odd look into Korean pop culture. (Raindog 2003)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Winson Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean and Cantonese Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen