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The Foul King
|     review    |     notes     |     availability     |
Korean: 반칙왕
Year: 2000
Director: Kim Ji-Woon
Cast: Song Kang-Ho, Jang Jin-Young, Park Sang-Myun, Jang Hang-Sun, Lee Won-Jong, Shin Koo, Song Young-Chang, Jung Woong-In, Kim Seung-Wook, Park Jee-Il, Kim Ka-Youn, Yang So-Min, Kang Young-Min, Yoon Mi-Kyung, Jang Nam-Yeol, Kim Chul-Soo, Lee Ki-Young, Myung Kye-Nam (cameo), Kim Soo-Ro (cameo), Shin Ha-Kyun (cameo), Ko Ho-Kyung (cameo)
The Skinny: A memorable performance from Song Kang-Ho makes Kim Ji-Woon's second film a winner. The Foul King is not only funny, but also affecting and intelligent in its use of social commentary
 
Review
by LunaSea:

Shy banker Im Dae-Ho (Song Kang-Ho) perfectly embodies the average adult close to a mid-life crisis. His boss (Song Young-Chang) is a maniacal control freak who uses the "law of the jungle" to deal with employees. The fittest survive, the others are welcome to crumble at the hands of his devastating headlock. Dae-Ho's performance rating is the lowest in the company, and he's constantly late to work.

His personal life is not much different: Dae-Ho is in his late twenties and without a partner. Even worse, his father (Christmas in August's Shin Koo) always scolds him like he's dealing with a ten year old kid. Dae-Ho doesn't want to grow up, as he still has the naiveté and spontaneity of his teenage years. But he's also suffering the pressure of his job's highly competitive nature - and by extension the pressure of modern society. And, he secretly loves one of his colleagues, but he can never find enough courage to confess to her.

One windy evening, Dae-Ho spots a physical training center on his way home. The center promises techniques that can be applied to everyday life. Is this the answer to his problems? Professional wrestling? At first he's just curious, asking the owner if he can teach him how to escape a headlock. But, as the days pass, he becomes infatuated with the profession. He has finally found an escape valve where he can vent his frustrations, and more importantly achieve something positive. Whether or not that will help with his initial needs doesn't matter. He's become self-confident, and he finally has something to be proud of.

The Foul King is a simple black comedy with plenty of laughs and silly situations. But, at the heart of the film lies an intelligent recreation of everyday men's problems. The maturity and realism used by director Kim Ji-Woon in depicting Dae-Ho's hurdles is impressive. The film's ending seems to imply that it doesn't take itself too seriously. However, the film still conveys a serious statement, that determination is what will make you achieve your goals. What matters is not if one achieves success at the end, but how he fares getting there. That message may be a predictable one, but the film delivers it honestly. .

After debuting as an extra in Hong Sang-Soo's first film The Day a Pig Fell Into The Well, Song Kang-Ho made a name for himself as a supporting actor in the late nineties. His roles in No. 3, Green Fish, Shiri, and Kim Ji-woon's own The Quiet Family made him a cult favorite. Thanks to his work in The Foul King and in Joint Security Area he's become one of the most sought-after performers in Korean Cinema. He's simply fantastic in giving life to the ultimate underdog. Dae-Ho's silly, hopeless behavior is indentifiable rather than laughable as the challenges he faces are much the same as the common person's. Wrestling aside, it's work and relationships that form the foundation of his - and our - lives.

After The Quiet Family and The Foul King, Kim Ji-Woon has proven himself as arguably the finest black comedy director in Korea. He intelligently mixes slapstick comedy with excellent character development, and he creates an enchanting pace that lets his films flow smoothly. The Foul King is really funny, possesses realistic themes, and features interesting, affecting characters. In short, if achieves more than most comedies ever can. (LunaSea 2002)

 
Notes:

• As the Making Of shows, the wrestling cast (Song Kang-ho, Park Sang-myun, Lee Won-jong and Kim Soo-ro) did most of the stunts by themselves. With the help of smart editing, some wirework, and lots of hard training, the result is pretty fluid and realistic. Wrestling fans will likely enjoy The Foul King even more. However, this reviewer cannot vouch for that; his memories of wrestling date back to the mid-eighties.

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 0 NTSC
Spectrum DVD
Special Edition + Swim Cap
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English & Korean Subtitles
25 Minutes Making of, Interviews With Cast & Director, etc.
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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