girls do the Thelma and Louise thing in A.F.R.I.K.A.,
which has been billed as "funky comedic action."
It's certainly comedic at times, and there's the occasional
action. And funky? Well...I suppose it could be funky.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's really that good,
Ji-Won (Lee Yo-Won)
and So-Hyun (Kim Min-Seon) are two college students
bored with their tiresome lives. Looking for some
kicks, they take a short trip to the beach, and borrow
a car from a friend for the drive. Unfortunately,
the car provided turns out to be stolen from a low-level
gangster who had just won some high stakes poker.
Among the winnings were two guns which were won as
collateral, which the girls immediately assume are
That fantasy is shattered when
the girls accidentally discharge one round, and soon
things escalate way out of control. They end up taking
along two other girls (Cho Eun-Ji and Lee Young-Jin),
and before you know it they're on a crime spree. Things
like chauvanism, annoying previous employers, and
general boredom send the girls into a tizzy, making
them wanted fugitives AND media heroes. An Internet
fan club is born called A.F.R.I.K.A. (Adoring Four
Revolutionary Idols Korea Association), which extols
the virtues of the daring four-girl gang. Sadly, the
cops aren't in the fan club, and neither are the people
who really own the guns. Not surprisingly, the latter
party want the guns back.
There's a charm to this
action comedy that makes the film passably entertaining.
The girls range from engaging (Lee Yo-Won shows charisma
as the default leader) to shrill (Cho Eun-Ji overacts
like mad as the ugly duckling), and the concept certainly
has its attractions. Who wouldn't want to see four
girls zipping all over Korea, buying cool outfits,
robbing annoying people, and generally frolicking
to a pseudo-grungy soundtrack? It's a fun concept,
which helps make rooting for the girls rather easy.
On the other hand, the
film lacks major development. The girls seem to be
one note characters, and their behavior occasionally
taxes the consistency meter. We do get a lot of emoting
concerning who and what these girls are about, but
nothing too revealing happens. Their instant celebrity
also seems cloying, and isn't a fully developed detail.
Considering that the film oozes Korean film style
(i.e., long takes, telling silences and deadpan absurdities),
it would have been nice if the filmmakers had thrown
in some actual character development. As it is, the
film asks that we should care simply because the girls
have been screwed over by evil guys, which really
isn't a justification for a crime spree. And in saying
that, I hope I haven't offended anyone who's been
screwed over by an evil guy.
Thanks to the slight
framework for the "funkiness", the eventual
intergroup conflicts and melodrama aren't very interesting.
It seems we're supposed to gleam some universal truths
about friendship and growing up and the power of the
five-finger discountor some stuff like that.
The filmmakers throw some lessons at us, but they're
not sufficiently compelling to stick. More fun is
had with the guys chasing the girls; Sung Ji-Roo and
Lee Je-Rak play the cop and gangster searching for
their guns, and their absurd detours frequently steal
the show. A.F.R.I.K.A. is occasionally amusing,
but only as mindless fluff. Like I said before, it
can be fun watching four girls hold up annoying people.
However, I didn't end up buying what they were selling,
and I won't be joining their fan club anytime soon,
either. (Kozo 2003)