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My Wife is a Gangster
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |
Park Sang-myun and Shin Eun-kyung
  AKA: Jopok Manura
  Year: 2001
  Director: Joo Jin-kyoo
  Cast: Shin Eun-kyung, Park Sang-myun, Ahn Jae-mo, Kim In-kwon, Jang Se-jin, Shim Won-chul
  The Skinny: This Korean superhit (over 5 million admissions in Korea) could have been better. But, thanks to Shin Eun-kyung and Park Sang-myun's effervescent performances, the film stays afloat. The uneven plot often drags, but many hilarious scenes redeem the director's mistakes.
by LunaSea:
     It's no secret that gangster comedies were the most popular genre in Korea last year. Kick The Moon, Guns & Talks, Hi Dharma! and My Boss My Hero all did great business. The most successful of these was My Wife is a Gangster, which possesses a fine blend of comedy, action and even a little drama. Also, the film's unusual screen couple was likely an audience draw. Shin Eun-kyung (of The Ring Virus, Downfall and The Young Man) isn't exactly used to comedies, and seeing her in this role was certainly a big attraction. Add Park Sang-myun, perhaps the funniest supporting actor in Korea, and this was sure to be a big hit.
     Shin is Eun-jin, No.2 of a local gang. We're introduced to her in impressive fashion, as she cuts rival gangsters to pieces with her trademark weapon (a pair of scissors). She has made it so far in the male-dominated Jopok world, for one reason only: she's not exactly the most feminine character you'll find. Even worse, her behavior makes that quite obvious.
     There are reasons for her lack of femininity, such as losing her sister and parents at a very young age. However, when she finds her long lost sister, the shock is big. Her sister is not only dying of cancer, but her last wish is to see her little sister married and with children! For Eun-jin (known as Mantis in the underworld) it seems like no big deal at first, but when she discovers the consequences of having a partner...well, problems begin.
     The best candidate for Eun-jin is civil servant Soo-il (Park Sang-myun). He's had no success with women so far, and seems like a gentle, faithful man. While their wedding doesn't go too smoothly, nothing is enough to prepare Soo-il for what will come next. Eun-jin dropkicks her newfound hubby to the floor every time he tries to touch her. She brings home an entire Chinese restaurant when Soo-il calls a few colleagues home for dinner. And, trying to follow her sister's advice to have children, she literally rapes Soo-il all over the house (elevators included). Now, all of this would be fine if the rival gang didn't know of Mantis' issues. They plan to exploit her problems to oust her from power, and as you would probably expect, a big fight ensues.
     Meanwhile, director Jo Jin-kyu also attempts to give life to the other characters. From the young gang recruits to the senior members, everyone has a story to tell and some subplot to follow. This lessens the impact of the main plot, and in the second half of the film, things begin to drag quite a bit. There's even some unnecessary melodrama towards the end which makes little sense.
     My Wife is a Gangster
is at its best when it focuses on Park and Shin's chemistry. When poking fun at Jopok (both the world, and film genre) conventions, the role of women in Korean society and many other things, the film is often hilarious. Park and Shin redeem the film with their terrific performances. If they had been helped by a more even pace, and a more capable director (such as Kim Sang-jin, Kim Ji-woon or Jang Jin), the end result could have been a stronger film. It's a shame the director couldn't piece everything together to offer a more coherent plot. But don't let those few flaws mislead you. My Wife is a Gangster is quite a fun experience, thanks to its Jopok jargon, well-choreographed wire-fu, and slapstick comedy.
     Also, this role will mean more comedies for Shin Eun-kyung, who's starring alongside Jung Joon-ho (of My Boss, My Hero fame) in the recently released Romantic Comedy. My Wife is a Gangster is a nice change of pace of Shin. Her performance as Eun-jin has enabled her to show some welcome range, and has confirmed her status as one of Korea's finest actresses. (LunaSea 2002)
Notes: Everybody's favorite US distributor, Miramax, bought the remake rights to this film. This is the first in a string of Korean hits (including My Sassy Girl) soon to be remade by American studios. When you're done rolling your eyes, think about this: you'll still have the original intact, and will be able to avoid the remake without regret. There's also a chance they'll release the original in the US. "From the butchers who brought you Kung Fu Soccer...."
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 0 NTSC (Marked as Region 3)
Bear Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Video
Korean and Mandarin Language Tracks
DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen