Friday, December 12, 2008

My Wife is a Gangster (Korea 2001)

My Wife is a Gangster (조폭 마누라), holds a special place in my heart because it played such a big part in getting me interested in Korean cinema. It has action, comedy, and drama, and while all of these elements don't always mix together perfectly, the end result stills makes for a highly entertaining film. I promise to remain objective.

Eun-jin (Sin Eun-kyeong) is anything but the typical woman. In fact, she just so happens to be the boss of a major gang who has worked her way up to legendary status. Out of the blue, one of her minions receives a phone call and tells Eun-jin the news she's been waiting so long to hear; the sister she was seperated from as a child has been found. Sadly, their reunion is hampered by the fact that Eun-jin's sister (Lee Eun-kyeong) is dying. She tells Eun-jin that her dying wish (literally) is to see Eun-jin happily married before she passes. Feeling as if she has no other choice, she orders her gang to find her an eligible bachelor for a shotgun wedding. Eun-jin's right-hand man, Romeo (Ahn Jae-mo), brings in a woman (Choi Eun-joo) to help the boss become more lady-like, albeit with mixed results. By coincidence, her gang finds a suitable match in Soo-il (Park Sang-myeon), an ordinary civil servant who also hasn't had much luck in love, which makes him all the more willing to go along with the arranged marriage to Eun-jin. The two are soon married and naturally don't see eye-to-eye on almost everything. Soo-il wants to have an intimate relationship, and Eun-jin promises to break his fingers if he touches her without her permission. However, it's all to please Eun-jin's sister who is beyond thrilled to see her sister so "happily" married. Meanwhile, things are getting more dangerous in the gang world as Eun-jin's boss (Myeong Kye-nam) returns to check on his gang, annoyed at the news of his second in commands marriage. He feels that her marriage and new lifestyle are going to weaken the image of the gang, and the leader of the opposing gang, White Shark (Jang Se-jin), plans to exploit this new-found weakness in Eun-jin and her gang. To make matters more complicated, Eun-jin's sister informs her that she would love to see her have a child!

That is definitely a wild plot, and even a bit preposterous, but above all else, My Wife is a Gangster seems to present itself as a comedy above all else. That fact alone would make the proceedings more forgiveable, but the problem is, that while the film is humorous for the most part, there are many elements of drama and even some tragic scenes that make things seem unbalanced. Aside from the mild case of schizophrenia, I can't help but love this movie, mostly due to the outstanding performances by Sin Eun-kyeong, and Park Sang-myeon. While they may be the ultimate odd-couple, they definitely are amusing together and play their parts exceptionally well. This movies excels due in large part to it's wonderful casting, with a cast of characters that are always entertaining to watch. There are some action/martial-arts scenes, and most of them look good, but there are occasions of way-too-obvious wire use that detracts from these moments. The real goldmine here lies in the characters and their interactions with each other.

I can't say that My Wife is a Gangster is anywhere near perfect, but it is a great movie that is highly entertaining for many different reasons. It was a huge hit in Korea when it was released and when you start watching it, it's easy to see why. There is an undeniable charm and uniqueness to the film that made it, and makes it, so great. (Lee)

Grade: A


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