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Spy Girl
  |     review    |     availability     |


Kim Jung-Hwa and Kong Yu


Availability:

DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentary, Trailers, TV Spots, Various other extras

 
Year: 2004
Director: Park Han-Joon
Cast: Kim Jung-Hwa, Kong Yu, Jadu, Nam Sang-Mi
The Skinny: Silly Korean comedy fluff which will probably entertain the socks off of pre-teen boys and girls. The fresh-scrubbed appeal of star Kim Jung-Hwa makes Spy Girl a palatable time waster, but classifying this as an actual quality film would be a total mistake.
Review
by Kozo:

     For those viewers out there determined to not take filmmaking seriously: Spy Girl is for you. An abominably silly schoolgirl charmer, Spy Girl is the type of movie that was created with the sole intent of separating willing teenagers from their allowance money. As such, it possesses zilch in the way of actual logic or purpose, and instead features a pretty leading lady, bland romance, semi-amusing humor, and a manufactured emotional ending typical of most Korean romantic comedies. The above formula is tried-and-true, and will probably not raise the ire of many a paying fourteen year-old. But really, does the above make a good movie?
     The scoop: a North Korean spy (Kim Jung-Hwa) crosses the DMZ on a mission to find and apprehend Operative Kim, another North Korean spy who embezzled a bunch of won. Setting herself up with a couple of jaded sleeper spies, she takes on the identity of their daughter, Park Hyo-Jin. She needs an ID because her best bet for tailing Kim is to work at the local Burger King and serve burgers to masses of drooling prep school kids. You see, Kim likes to meet his contacts at the corner Burger King, so if Hyo-Jin works there, she can keep tabs on him AND earn a little extra cash. James Bond would be proud.
     Hyo-Jin's undoing: the presence of a motley bunch of prep school boys, including Ko-Bong (Kong Yu), a dopey dropout who is about to be swept off to mandatory military service. The primary pursuit of these boys is the appointing of an "angel". More specifically, they choose some local cutie and crown her as their "angel" on the Internet. The girl-ogling page also jokingly states that "those who don't know her are North Korean spies." Thanks to Ko-Bong's admiration, Hyo-Jin shoots straight to the top of the charts—which bothers Hyo-Jin because she happens to actually be a North Korean spy. So she agrees to date him to get him to stop. Cue eighty extra minutes of mellow, misdirected romance and danger-free encounters with bullying girls and other North Korean spies. A big spoiler here: nobody dies!
     Spy Girl is basically cookie-cutter teenybopper fluff packaged in the same whimisical trappings as the king of all teenybopper Korean comedies: My Sassy Girl. To wit, there are minor conflicts and hidden agendas, and bubbling emotions which grow in a subtle and endearing fashion. The big problem here is that Spy Girl does none of the above anywhere near as well as My Sassy Girl. Everything that occurs here is predictable and manufactured, right down to the forced emotional climax which will probably only touch the easily manipulated. Everyone else will just yawn and look at their watch, or they can check the scores on their Internet-enabled cell phone, if they're lucky enough to have one. This isn't filmmaking—it's more like teen fiction financed for the screen by daddy's credit card.
     The good stuff: like most Korean comedies of its ilk, Spy Girl is certainly shot well, and maintains a light, offense-free tone. The film won't shock with its amazing entertainment quality, but it certainly won't offend or even annoy anyone with jarringly bad comedy or awful, tasteless jokes. Also, the film is told with some minor narrative shifting, which actually makes the fluffy storyline exponentially more interesting. By that, we mean it's not that interesting to begin with, but by shifting the narrative from the present to the past, and from Go-Bong to Hyo-Jin, the film actually takes on a semblance of real storytelling. If the actual content isn't that great, at least the effort was good.
     With the above in mind, it's likely the target audience for Spy Girl was not disappointed. This is low-aim, middle-shot, probable-success stuff; it was produced expressly for throwaway teen entertainment, and it does its job with a minimum of fuss. Also, lead actress Kim Jung-Hwa is exceptionally cute; the script calls for everyone and his father to drool over her at first sight, and given her charming smile, it seems to work. Of course, giving Kim huge cred for her performance would be a mistake, because she isn't called upon to do much more than smile and pout with her Revlon-worthy lips. The biggest debit here is that her fighting skills are nonexistent, and whatever scenes they concoct for Kim and her stunt doubles are lackluster and poorly edited. Maybe they couldn't hire a better action director, or maybe they just didn't care to. After all, this isn't real filmmaking, it's just cookie-cutter teenybopper fluff. And in evaluating Spy Girl as cookie-cutter teenybopper fluff, it's hard to say that it's a total failure. (Kozo 2004)

 
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