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Girl Scout
Cherry Tomato

Hitting the road: the girls of Girl Scout.
Korean: 걸스카우트
Year: 2008  
Director: Kim Sang-Man  

Kim Seok-Joo

  Cast: Kim Seon-Ah, Nah Moon-Hee, Lee Kyeong-Sil, Ko Joon-Hee, Lim Ji-Eun, Park Won-Sang, Yoo Jae-Joon, Kim Hyang-Ki, Jeon Ji-Ae
  The Skinny: Girl Scout is a surprisingly entertaining caper comedy that shows how to do girl power right
Kevin Ma:
It's been a fairly dismal year for Korean cinema, but director Kim Sang-Man goes back to basics with the immensely entertaining caper comedy Girl Scout. Making his feature film debut, Kim and first-time writer Kim Seok-Joo craft a series of twists and turns that keep the film moving at a breakneck pace for its lean 100-minute running time, and they do so without trying to simply outwit the audience. Combine that with an ensemble cast game for anything that gets thrown their way, and you've got one of the most purely entertaining Korean films of 2008.

The two Kims keep the exposition basic, going straight into the plot after quickly introducing their players. Mi-Kyung (Kim Seon-Ah, in a glamour-free lead role) is a divorced mother with a deadbeat ex-husband that gets by with her school van service; Iman (Nah Moon-Hee) gets no respect from her adult son and her coworkers with her lowly job at the supermarket; and Bong-Soon (Lee Kyeong-Sil) is a tough-as-nails single mom trying to earn money to pay for her son's surgery. The three women have all their hopes on a collective savings fund run by beauty parlor owner Hye-Ran (Lim Ji-Eun). These collective savings funds are popular among Korean housewives, who hope that their monthly deposits will one day turn into one large lump sum. Little do they know that Hye-Ran is about to take off with her boyfriend Hong-Gi - and the money.

At this point, Girl Scout adds an even more important MacGuffin into the mix: two million dollars worth of bonds that belongs to the mob. While Mi-Kyung decides to drag her friends (including a 4th member, spunky neighbor Eun-Ji) to follow an unlikely clue that may lead them to Hye-Ran, the mob dispatches fixer Jung-Dae, who quickly finds the escaping couple. However, various circumstances send the three on a colliding path with the women, who end up getting mixed in a messy cat-and-mouse chase between the various criminal elements.

Much of that action only begins around the film's halfway point. Before that, Girl Scout is actually a light road trip movie driven by the four lead performances. In traditional “girl power” fashion, Kim devotes much of the first half to developing the women's bond during an extended stakeout at a café parking lot. The success of the section is mostly due to the comic ability of the actresses and the chemistry between them, which makes their unlikely alliance convincing and worth following. However, the filmmakers quickly undo their efforts, nixing the potential emotional resonance in the relationships by moving on to various second-half twists that test the women's friendship. Suddenly, the cat-and-mouse action is put front-and-center, splitting the characters into different places in service of the plot.

The above happens because Girl Scout is first and foremost a caper comedy. The filmmakers smartly eschew emotions and dense character exposition by making entertainment their primary intention. Even though they make a slight misstep towards the end of the second act, the two Kims keep the film consistently entertaining throughout. The second half of the film is filled with twists, but they never perpetrate one in a “gotcha!” fashion that undermines audience intelligence. There's virtually no surprise in Girl Scout, but that also happens to be the film's most pleasant surprise. For once, the audience is actually along for the ride, as opposed to waiting three steps behind for the film to fill them in.

Director Kim also keeps the proceeding as light as possible (despite some serious blows exchanged in the finale), and tells the story with style to boot. Despite the lack of spectacular action (excepting a car chase nicely assisted by CGI), the film turns out to be light escapist fun, which is rare for Korean cinema this year. While other directors continue to churn out ultra-serious melodramas and violent gangster flicks, Kim sticks to a basic road trip formula without any excessive emotional baggage or crude misplaced humor. In perspective, Girl Scout is essentially the cinematic equivalent of junk food with little nutrition, but it's easily some of the better tasting Korean junk food you'll likely have all year. (Kevin Ma, 2008)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Media
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Extras

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