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Someone Special
  |     review    |     availability     |


Region 3 NTSC
Cinema Service
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean subtitles
Various extras

Year: 2004
Director: Jang Jin
Cast: Jung Jae-Young, Lee Na-Young
The Skinny: A sometimes clunky, sometimes slow, but ultimately likable Korean romantic comedy. There have certainly been better romantic comedies out of Korea, but there have also been much, much worse.
by Kozo:

     Someone Special is unusual for a Korean romantic comedy. For one thing, male lead Jung Jae-Young is more homely than handsome, and is as initially charming as a half-dead dog. Furthermore, the film spits a massive tragedy at you in the first ten minutes. Usually it's the sad stuff that closes these deals, but director Jang Jin smacks you with a terminal disease right away—hardly a wise move when directing a fluffy romantic laffer. Furthermore, Someone Special is slow, full of leisurely, opaque voice-over, and the characters could probably solve all their issues if they just communicated once in a while. But surprisingly, the movie manages to entertain, interest, and even charm.
     Dong Chi-Sung (Jung Jae-Young) is a love-obsessed, sad sack baseball player who's just been dumped by his longtime girlfriend. Luckily, he's going to be given a chance to pitch in an upcoming game, hopefully reinvigorating his baseball career and redeeming himself for a previous ninth inning gaffe that cost his team an important game. Unfortunately, he's also just been diagnosed with a terminal disease—a factoid which could take the wind out of anyone's sails, let alone an unnecessarily introspective and existential-minded fellow like Chi-Sung. It's enough to make a grown man cry, or mope for a good two hours.
     Enter quirky female lead Lee Na-Young, who plays supposedly plain-looking bartender Yi-Yeon. Right from the start, we're told that this girl simply adores Chi-Sung, which seems odd because Chi-Sung is neither charming nor great-looking, and Yi-Yeon could probably choose from any number of better-looking and less-depressing fellow—all based on her looks alone. Nevertheless, we're supposed to buy that this is one frumpy, socially backward girl, and Lee Na-Young manages to give her a sufficiently weird vibe to sell the character.
     Yi-Yeon worms her way into Chi-Sung's life, just as his own existential crisis hits overdrive courtesy of his waning lifespan. There are also robberies, a suspected homicide, and various ultra-convenient connections through the small cast of characters. Somewhere along the way, love is supposed to blossom and charm is supposed to be dispensed, but with a guy who's supposed to die, and characters being as uncommunicative as possible, that would seem to be an impossibility. For Chi-Sung, it may be great that the standard quirky love interest is showing up, but shouldn't she be told that her long-desired boyfriend is about to croak?
     Surprisingly, Someone Special makes up for its uncommunicative characters and sometimes overly-maudlin sentiments with some witty sequences, and a slow-burn romance that's intriguing if not terribly exciting. Chi-Sung and Yi-Yeon are mismatched and somewhat unrealistic, but for a romantic comedy couple they make an awkward, charming pair. Lee Na-Young may be the best in the biz at playing deglamorized romantic leads (see Please Teach Me English or Who Are You?), and Jung Jae-Young manages to take his cold fish character and warm him up slightly. Despite being rough and uncharismatic, Chi-Sung is a decent bloke whose integrity makes him likable. His deadpan way with words may be a turnoff at first, but some emotions are visible beneath the character's overly-tough skin. If anything, Chi-Sung's overriding interest in love makes him near-lovable.
     Ultimately, Someone Special does not rewrite the book on Korean romantic comedies, but it does manage to avoid being overly cloying or bombastic. There are a few questionable moves on director Jang Jin's part, including a meaningless need to connect all the characters, and the occasional hollow bit of sentimentality. However, there are enough deadpan laughs, amusing quirks, and witty exchanges between the characters to make this a better-than-average romcom outing. It all unfolds a little slowly, and those looking for big payoffs will probably not be happy with the lack of massive fireworks. However, for what it is—another entry in a film industry overrun with similar, and sometimes tiresome films from the same genre—Someone Special does enough of the little things right to make it worthwhile. (Kozo 2004)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen