Eun-jin and Hyeon-seok plan their future together, until a text message threatens to destroy their relationship

My Ordinary Love Story (내 연애의 기억) – ★★★☆☆

My Ordinary Love Story (내 연애의 기억)

My Ordinary Love Story (내 연애의 기억)

Following a series of bad relationships, pretty 29 year old Eun-jin (Kang Ye-won (강예원) again finds herself on the receiving end of heartache. Dumped by her boyfriend, Eun-jin gets horribly drunk and, unable to pay for a taxi home, shares a ride home with geeky Hyeon-seok (Song Sae-byeok (송새벽). Despite being very different people Eun-jin and Hyeon-seok feel the spark of romance and begin dating, with the relationship going so well that they eventually begin to talk of marriage. However as they pick to choose furniture for their future together, curiosity gets the better of Eun-jin and she checks her lover’s phone…only to find a message from another woman. Filled with anger and jealousy Eun-jin starts investigating Hyeon-seok to prove he’s the same as every other bad guy. Yet as she digs deeper, nothing could prepare Eun-jin for the dark secret of Hyeon-seok’s identity.

The closing film for the 2014 Bucheon Fantastic Film Festival, My Ordinary Love Story (내 연애의 기억) is an enjoyable and quite refreshing romantic-comedy from director Lee Kwon (이권), who is more recently known for the 2012 TV drama Shut Up: Flower Boy Band (닥치고 꽃미남밴드). Initially My Ordinary Love Story is a formulaic rom-com yet in true Korean style the story comes to embrace a multitude of genres, with the blend elevating the film out of mediocrity to be a surprisingly effective viewing experience.

Eun-jin and Hyeon-seok plan their future together, until a text message threatens to destroy their relationship

Eun-jin and Hyeon-seok plan their future together, until a text message threatens to destroy their relationship

My Ordinary Love Story is very much Kang Ye-won’s film, with her performance the central reason why the story is so endearing. Kang captures Eun-jin’s selfish, jealous and nagging personality well yet never makes the character unlikeable, largely due to Eun-jin’s terrible dating history and potential as a victim of cheating, but also thanks to Kang’s unique overacting style which suits the role – and filmic style – agreeably. As the film is, for the most part, a generic rom-com the sexual politics are particularly unenlightened – the desperation for a woman to be married before 30, for example – however as Eun-jin takes agency and launches an investigation to prove Hyeon-seok’s guilt, a sense of empowerment also pervades and promotes Eun-jin as a character to root for.

Director Lee Kwon attempts to infuse various strands of quirkiness within the film in order to generate a sense of identity, seemingly inspired by the remarkably fun How to Use Guys With Secret Tips. He somewhat succeeds, yet the lack of consistency ultimately undermines his attempts as onscreen text, animation and voice-overs appear and disappear randomly, creating a sense of stylistic incohesion. Luckily such issues don’t impact the entertainment too deeply as the flighty stylisation, coupled with the enjoyably silly supporting characters and jokes, still serve to entertain.

The unique nature of My Ordinary Love Story comes from merging typically disparate genres to become one of the more memorable recent rom-coms. In steering the generic romance into macabre territory director Lee takes a big gamble yet it’s one that works, adding new layers of enjoyment to an otherwise predictable narrative. The change in direction unfortunately comes a tad too late in the story as the compelling nature of such scenes, and Hyeon-seok himself, lack sufficient exploration to be effective, yet as the story is largely a light-hearted comedy it’s perhaps understandable and is enjoyable regardless.

Hyeon-seok and Eun-jin attempt to overcome their hidden truths

Hyeon-seok and Eun-jin attempt to overcome their hidden truths

My Ordinary Love Story is an enjoyable genre-bending outing by director Lee Kwon. The film elevates itself out of mediocrity by beginning as a generic rom-com before delving into darker territory, carried ably by the charismatic performance of Kang Ye-won. While there are pacing and technical issues within, My Ordinary Love Story is an entertaining feature and is one of the more refreshing examples of the genre.

★★★☆☆

Korean Festivals 2014 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 18회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Reviews
Gi-soo and Choon-sim are forced to work together or the helmet-bomb will detonate

Quick (퀵) – ★★☆☆☆

Quick (퀵)

Quick (퀵)

The action-comedy sub-genre can be a gleefully entertaining experience, eschewing the penetrative socio-cultural material conveyed through critically acclaimed work and focusing primarily on exhilarating stunts and battles, charismatic lead actors, and downright silly fun. The amazing Jackie Chan has built a career through action-comedies with his incredibly unique vision for fight sequences and stunt work that made insurance companies weak at the knees. Similarly, Jason Statham’s The Transporter and Crank genre vehicles helped cement his role as action hero, while The Fast and The Furious has such popularity with its fast cars and overt machismo that a seventh sequel is currently planned.

Quick (퀵) aims to emulate such successes, featuring racing motorcycles, rogue police officers, and a race against time to stop the Machiavellian ne’er-do-well from exploding yet another building. However, the striking lack of originality, lack of charismatic leads, and general lack of comedy make Quick a forgettable viewing experience.

Han Gi-soo (Lee Min-ki (이민기) is a legendary biker gang leader, always in trouble with the law yet despite this dates the studious Choon-sim (Kang Ye-won (강예원). Caught kissing another girl, Gi-soo simply rides away but is pursued by Choon-sim who demands answers for his betrayal. During the chaos, the bikers cause several traffic accidents resulting in the destruction of a number of cars and lives lost. A few years later, Gi-soo works as a bike courier renowned for delivering packages in ultra-fast time. One afternoon Gi-soo is instructed to transport a person to a studio, which turns out to be Choon-sim who has re-invented herself as Ah-rom (아롬), a member of a Kpop girl group. Yet when she puts on her helmet, a bomb is triggered and a mysterious voice on a cell phone claims he will detonate if Gi-soo refuses to deliver packages to various recipients. In addition, Gi-soo is also tagged with a bracelet linked to Choon-sim’s helmet – if they are more than 10 meters away from each other, the bomb will also detonate. Gi-soo and Choon-sim are forced to work together to deliver all the packages in time and escape with their lives, as well as discovering why they were chosen for the task.

Gi-soo and Choon-sim are forced to work together or the helmet-bomb will detonate

Gi-soo and Choon-sim are forced to work together or the helmet-bomb will detonate

Director Jo Beom-goo (조범구) competently constructs and frames the action, filming multiple car pile-ups and explosions with confidence. The motorcycle stunts, despite the suspension of disbelief required, are thrilling and entertaining to watch as Gi-soo and Choon-sim jump over ramps, rooftops, and even over streets into nearby buildings as they avoid the fleet of police officers hunting them down and the fiery infernos that are left in their wake. To this end the editing must also be acknowledged as the rapid style adds excitement and conveys the speed of the race-against-time scenario. The same cannot be said for Park Su-jin’s (박수진) script which is overly convoluted featuring corporate espionage, gang warfare, and an ineffective police force. Overburdened with so many narrative tangents, and so many protagonists inaugurated to achieve those ends, the core plot of Quick quickly becomes submerged which detracts from the enjoyment of the over-the-top action spectacles. Quick (퀵) also blatantly ‘borrows’ gimmicky ideas and themes from other films of the genre, most notably The Transporter and The Fast and The Furious franchises, in a less-than-subtle attempt to become Hollywood fare. The reason such devices worked in prior films was due to their originality and the charisma of the actors involved, who clearly understood the tongue-in-cheek nature of  their role. Quick unfortunately has neither.

Gi-soo and Choon-sim find themselves in an array of dangerous situations

Gi-soo and Choon-sim find themselves in an array of dangerous situations

While lead actor Lee Min-ki and actress Kang Ye-won are incredibly attractive, their performances leave little to be desired. The roles themselves are extremely limiting as they function as devices simply to move from one set piece to the next, but even so, Lee Min-ki is not convincing as an action star. His lack of physical prowess notwithstanding, the tough-guy street-savvy attitude and intimidating personality are noticeably absent with the singular – and unimpressive – fight scene doing very little to remedy the matter. Similarly Kang Ye-won’s role, in which she miraculously changes from teenage bookworm to Kpop superstar, is merely to complain, whine and scream throughout the narrative. But by far the most irritating protagonist is biker-turned-traffic cop Kim Myeong-sik, played by Kim In-kwon. While initially humourous, Myeong-sik quickly becomes aggravating due to recurring gags and his constant yelling for his unrequited love interest. It’s also puzzling as to why so many protagonists are deemed necessary, as the abundance of police officers, gangsters, and corrupt office workers severely impede the character development of the lead roles.

The couple must take to the pedestrian-filled streets to escape the police

The couple must take to the pedestrian-filled streets to escape the police

Verdict:

Quick is an enjoyable, albeit mediocre, action comedy. With some entertaining stunt work and fun set-pieces, Quick is a fast paced and – thanks to the lead actors – an attractive viewing experience. However the film is weighed down by excessive narrative tangents and protagonists, and the resulting lack of character development detracts from creating empathy with the leads and portraying the intensity of their situation. Despite these shortcomings, there are enough car and motorbike crashes, highway chases and explosions to keep fans of the genre happy.

★★☆☆☆

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