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She's On Duty
Year: 2005


DVD (Korea)
Spectrum DVD
2-Disc Director's Cut Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Audio Commentaries, Making of the film, Best Scenes, Kim Sun-Ah's Enchantment, Behind the Story, Music Video, Promo Material

Director: K.C. Park Kwang-Choon
Cast: Kim Seon-Ah, Gong Yoo, Nam Sang-Mi, Park Sang-Myeon, Kim Kap-Soo
The Skinny: In this wacky action comedy, a surly female cop goes undercover in a high school to track down an elusive criminal whose testimony could put a notorious mobster behind bars. But along the way, she has to deal with school bullies, exams, and a mysterious classmate she soon develops feelings for. Neither a rousing crowd pleaser nor a total waste of time, She's On Duty basically amounts to less than two hours of innocuous entertainment. But let's be real, fun as the film may be on occasion, it's all stuff we've seen many times before.
  Review by Calvin McMillin:

     There's an old business adage, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak," and it's prominently on display in the promotional photos accompanying director Park Kwang-Choon's She's On Duty. To wit, the image emblazoned on the DVD's slipcase cover depicts lead actress Kim Seon-Ah with long, windswept hair and flaunting a Charlie's Angels pose with her trusty gun at the ready. Dressed in schoolgirl uniform complete with a midriff-bearing sailor fuku top, this character is every fanboy's wet dream come to life. It's also a patently false image, as are the rest of the cute, sexy, or just plain zany photos released to promote the film. In reality, the actress goes through the whole movie dressed quite conservatively, wearing her hair pulled back sharply in a ponytail. And the character is hardly the coquette that the pictures suggest, but rather a gruff, mouthy, and somewhat shrill tomboy (with a heart of gold, of course).
     To be fair, it's not really that big a deal (misleading marketing like this happens all the time), but those expecting a vibrant, whimsical, or even sexy affair due to these photos will be sorely disappointed with the actual product. However, once you get over the letdown of false advertising, there's an enjoyable enough film to be found in She's On Duty. But like so many films these days, Korean or otherwise, it's really just safe, by-the-numbers entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.
     If you're familiar with 21 Jump Street, Fight Back to School, Never Been Kissed, or heck, even Miss Congeniality, you'll have some idea of what's going to go down in She's On Duty. This umpteenth variation on the undercover cop comedy centers on Detective Chun Jae-In (Kim Seon-Ah of S Diary and the original Wet Dreams). After screwing up a case involving a sex trafficking ring run by the Japanese Yakuza, Jae-In gets roped into an undercover assignment at a local high school. She's ordered to conduct around-the-clock surveillance on Seung-Hee (the beautiful Nam Sang-Mi) by becoming her best new gal pal. Why? It seems her absent father, Cha Young-Jae (Kim Kap-Soo) is a reformed crook and a key figure in the prosecution of a sadistic mob boss. The only problem is that Mr. Cha's a tough guy to track down, seeing as how the mob wants to get their grubby paws on him, too.
     But that's only half her problems. It turns out that Jae-In isn't exactly thrilled with her one last shot at redemption, considering the fact that she was a poor student and onetime gang leader back in high school (Which makes one wonder about the standards involved in the South Korean police entrance exam, doesn't it?). Considering her background, it's no surprise how she reacts to new challenges. When confronted by bullies, the headstrong Jae-In beats the hell out of them. When forced to take exams, she cheats with the help of her commanding officer. It's amusing stuff, but it all seems a bit too familiar. Yet another case of "been there, seen that."
     Eventually, she falls head over heels for the mysterious Kang No-Yong (Gong Yoo), who just so happens to live next door to her. And things heat up when Jae-In's main rival, a gloryhound police detective is installed in the school as a substitute teacher to speed up the case. Of course, the usual wackiness abounds, but things take a sharp dramatic turn in the last section of the film, an event which is soon followed by an even sadder development. Suddenly, the film accelerates to a gritty, bloody conclusion that, while seemingly incongruent when described, actually transitions quite smoothly onscreen. Not surprisingly, things revert back to comedy for an "all's well that ends well" finale necessitated by the genre.
     So much has been said about South Korea being the "New Hong Kong," and in terms of output and production values, perhaps the title is deserved. There have been some Korean juggernauts like My Sassy Girl and Oldboy that seem to have that extra something that typified the best and brightest of the Hong Kong New Wave, but She's On Duty isn't even close. It's just far too familiar, both in premise and execution to be considered anything but prepackaged fluff. If this were a Hong Kong movie, Jae-In would be played by Miriam Yeung. If it were an American one, probably Sandra Bullock. The fact that the screenplay could be used in either country, changing all the Korean references to Chinese or American speaks to the generic quality of the film. This is neither high art nor pop art; it's paint-by-numbers stuff. And even when the movie starts making wild tonal shifts, there's something cozily safe about She's On Duty. Why? Because there's a definite formula at work here, a fact that practically guarantees you won't be angry at wasting your time or money on the film, but also pretty much insures that you won't exactly be giddy with excitement once it's over. If you like Kim Seon-Ah and/or the very premise, then you won't be disappointed. But if you're looking for that "little something extra," it's nowhere to be found in She's On Duty. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen