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Beautiful Sunday
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by Jay Seaver

"Clever just barely beats out complicated."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: "Beautiful Sunday" doesn't quite accomplish magic, but it's got one of the basic principles down pat. In fact, it might be a little too good with its misdirection, as a good chunk of what's going on is, in the final analysis, not really that important, just a smokescreen of complication to obscure the really clever bit.

We start with Detective Kang (Park Yong-woo); one of the Seoul PD's most aggressive cops, he tears through a major drug deal to take down the kingpin, Song-tae. Then, immediately afterward, he sells 90% of the product to another drug dealer. 200g goes on the report rather than 2kg, and as much as Song-tae is livid at someone stealing from him, he keeps quiet to avoid more jail time. As soon as he gets out of jail, though, he and his second-in-command Yoo Chun-yon are gunning for Kang, who has other problems: His ill-gotten gains are being spent on his comatose wife's medical bills, and there's a serial rapist on the loose that Kang's captain really wants put away.

Meanwhile, we're also introduced to Min-woo (Nam Goog-min); his attraction to pretty Su-yeon (Min Jee-hye) quickly becomes an obsession. One night he goes up to introduce himself, she freaks out, and he grabs her, initially to calm her down, but once he's already got his hands on her, he takes the next step. That's bad enough, but when he later sees her working in a bookstore, he approaches her; she doesn't recognize him and they start dating.

It's almost inevitable that the two stories will cross (sure, sometimes they don't in movies like this, but that's rare and unsatisfying). Truth be told, waiting to see how this happens is the thing that drives most of the movie, and filmmaker Jin Kwang-kyo plays his cards pretty close to the vest on that one. Kang's story has a lot of characters and things going on, but ultimately doesn't amount to that much. Min-woo's, by contrast, is very minimalist, as we get uncomfortable waiting for Su-yeon to grasp just who she's falling in love with. Despite all the action in Kang's part of the movie, it's Min-woo's that's actually more engrossing most of the time; a ticking time bomb hidden behind happiness is more interesting than one in the middle of people who regard each other as enemies anyway.

The performances are nice all around. Park Yong-woo visibly seethes with anger at the box he finds himself in; he gets to do a lot of visual acting without it seeming over the top. The other characters in his storyline (unfortunately, the program doesn't give me their names) are doing something similar; the actors playing Song-tae and Chun-yon both give outsize performances that stay on the right side of hammy. Nam Goog-min probably has the hardest part of any of them - he has to start out as at least a little creepy and work his way up to possibly sympathetic. Not actually sympathetic, but to the point where the audience believes he regrets his past action and is doing his level best to be a good boyfriend. Min Jee-hye is nice as well, taking us on an emotional roller coaster ride.

This is Jin's first film, and it shows (at the very least) a great deal of potential. He handles most of the technical aspects very well - there are a few good action scenes, for instance, along with some tricky cinematography and editing toward the end. He almost always gets the right note from his performers, making what could be little more than a story about unpleasant people interesting. And the climax is a good one that left the audience talking, mostly in good terms. The screenplay could use a bit of streamlining and balancing.

It packs a punch at the end, though, enough to forgive most of the roundabout way half of it got there. "Beautiful Sunday" falls a bit short of what it could be, but not so far as to make the audience regret its ambition.

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originally posted: 07/11/08 15:35:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Jin Kwang-kyo

Written by
  Jin Kwang-kyo

  Park Yong-Woo
  Nam Koong-Min
  Min Jee-Hye

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