My Boss, My Hero
"All of the sudden, high school life becomes more erratic than gangster life. Yeah, right."
- Mighty Peking Man
My Boss, My Hero (2001)
Director: Yun Je-Kyun
Cast: Jung Jun-Ho, Jung Oong-In, Jeong Un-taeck, Park Jun-Kyu, Oh Seung-eun, Song Seon-mi, Kim Sang-jung, Im Chang-jeong
Running Time: 98 min.
Plot: When a young gang leader seems to be just a bit too stupid to effectively carry out his daily tasks - embarrassing his gang members and himself frequently - his superiors order him to go back to school for his high school diploma. Once situated in the school, posing as a 20-year-old, he soon learns that the school is even more corrupt and vicious a place to spend his days than in his gang. After he can't stand it any longer, he decides to stop playing "the innocent student" and unleashes his wrath on the place.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
WOODY'S REVIEW: This is one of the most woefully uneven movies I have seen in a long while. For the first half of this film, we are treated to a pretty funny take on the Korean-gangster-out-of-water genre (see also Hi! Dharma and My Wife is a Gangster). Unfortunately, about an hour into it all, the film gets serious, trying to mix the comedy of the first hour with a school-corruption plotline featuring some rather brutal violence (at least within the context of a comedy).
This film has a good premise. Doo-sik is an on-the-rise gang boss, but isn't the brightest guy. A higher-up gangster instructs him that, in order to gain respect in the business, he needs a high school diploma. Buying his way into an expensive private school, Doo-sik must pretend to be an average teenage high schooler, without letting on that he is in fact a thirty-something gangster.
Everything in this film is executed well. The fish-out-of-water material is often hilarious, if a bit nonsensical at times (the guy is a hardcore chopo, and he's gonna let a coupla obnoxious high school punks push him around? Gimme a break!). The characters are all pretty interesting and fun, brought to life by a very capable set of actors and actresses. The melodrama is well-done, with the requisite musical-montages and slow motion. The fights are great...brutal, bloody beatings done with much panache (peep the fight in the rain, very reminiscent of Nowhere To Hide and My Wife is a Gangster). However, the script is unsure of what it wants to be. What starts out as a fish-out-of-water tale soon becomes a stinging, melodramatic indictment of a corrupt school system, and it never gels. Some films can make the transition from comedy to darker grounds, like David Fincher's "Fight Club." This film , however, wants it both ways. It wants to be a lighthearted comedy AND a violent, melodramatic take on school corruption, and worse yet, there is no transition. One moment, it's all laughs, then a teacher gets slapped by a parent and it's a whole 'nother movie all together.
All in all, I do recommend this film. It doesn't gel all that well, but it has some very good scenes, and the violence, however inappropriate it feels being in the context of a comedy, is very well-done. There is one beating (when Doo-sik becomes fed up with how a student behaves toward a teacher) that is so damned brutal it is worth the price of admission alone. Rent before buying. A lot of people really loved this one. I thought it was OK.
WOODY'S RATING: 6/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Imagine you're a powerful gang leader in your late thirties. You're tough, honorable and the men under your belt have the upmost respect for you. Things are looking even better because your big boss has just moved you up the ranks to take control of a bigger area that requires more responsibility than ever before. There's only one thing that's bothering your boss: You're a "dumb" (conspicuously unintelligent) high school dropout. You may know everything there is to know about being a tough gangster and controlling your turf, but when it comes to the simple things like telling the difference between an e-mail address and a home address, you're ignorant and more clueless than a blonde with big tits that taste like french vanilla ice cream. You and your boss decide that the best thing you can do for yourself is disguise yourself as a teenager and go back to high school to get your diploma.
Rodney Dangerfield, eat your heart out. Wait, just joking. Don't eat it.
That's the plot to "My Boss, My Hero" which is no doubt, a funny film that has it's moments, but misses the chance of being a competent film. It's ashamed, because with it's catchy premise, it seems like it's full of potential; even more than the similar, but better "My Wife Is A Gangster". One of the main problems with "My Boss, My Hero" was where the plot ended up. Of course, most films start from a simple foundation and become complex for itself and the audience for entertainment purposes. Sadly, where this film ends up is just plain ridiculous. School corruption, principals with connections to "our" hero's rival gangsters, and students who all of the sudden support their school after dreading it during most of the movie. All of the sudden, high school life becomes more erratic than gangster life. Yeah, right. Even for a fictional movie I say it again - yeah, right.
But like I said, it does have it's moments. I thought the funniest parts of the film lied during the social transition of Kye Doo-sik (which is the name of the title character, played by Jung Joon-ho). At one point of the film, after Kye Doo-sik observes other students on the way to class, he gives one of his men a beating for not preparing him with apparel that's not hip and in-style. Kye Doo-sik's interaction with his classmates, campus gangsters as well as Yoon-joo (Oh Seung-eun), the girl he develops a crush for, are also some noteworthy elements of the film's better side. You'll also notice a familiar face (Jeong Un-taeck, that goofball from Kwak Kyung-Taek's "Friend") who seems to be the spotlight for the films comic relief.
"My Boss, My Hero" has enough action and for sure, has enough beatings (the most I've seen in a Korean film so far!) to keep the average action-thirsty idiot happy. The comedy, for the most part, is good. The acting is good. But the overall structure of the film could use some work. Too bad it's a little too late for that.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 5.5/10 (.5 for that sexy teacher)