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Aachi & Ssipak
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by Jay Seaver

"Slick & Twisted Animation Show."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: "Aachi & Ssipak" is one of the most violent, vulgar, and foul-mouthed animated features to come out in quite some time, and I have to say, it's nice to see. The world of animation today is becoming almost as homogeneous as it was when Disney dominated the landscape, and it's a blast to see someone other than Bill Plympton just cut loose like this.

From the opening crawl, Aachi & Ssipak is in wonderfully scatological territory: The energy source of the future, it says, is human feces, so to facilitate production, the world government has implemented a system whereby productive tripps to the crapper (identified by anally inserted ID chips) are rewarded by delicious (and secretly addictive) Juicybars being dispensed. Especially addicted are the Diaper Gang, a horde of spectacularly dim little blue mutants. Aachi and Ssipak are punks who make a living by conking people on the head after they leave public toilets and stealing their Juicybars, and they hit the jackpot when they come across Beautiful, a curvy minx with extremely regular bowels and a defective chip that dispenses dozens of Juicybars per dump. The Diaper Gang wants her, of course, as does her former pimp and the government's chief of police, a sadistic schoolgirl who is only too happy to sic Geko, her cyborg supercop, on just about anybody.

"Lovable" isn't in this movie's repertoire. Well, Ssipak is a kind of big, genial lug, and he's fallen for Beautiful, but everyone else, including Beautiful? Out for themselves and pretty darn ruthless about getting what they want. Aachi is a venal little troll, the Chief is a sociopath, and the non-moron leader of the Diaper Gang loses any "champion of the oppressed" cred he might have by gleefully using his followers as cannon fodder. Not that they're good for much else; they really are frighteningly stupid and violent.

This isn't a big problem, though, because the movie isn't looking for affection. Doing much in the way of character-building would just be a distraction, anyway, since this movie is all about the next gag or big action scene. Putting much space between them would be a waste, the filmmakers seem to figure, and they themselves tend to be rapid-fire jokes or chases. Director Jo Beom-jin leaves almost no dead space in his film, almost to the point where it becomes exhausting. If you're watching with subtitles and don't speak Korean, you might wind up momentarily confused because Aachi in particular tends to talk as fast as the action - a couple seconds spent looking at the visuals might mean missing a few lines of dialog. Not that it matters too much - why the Diaper Gang mutants are being blown apart isn't really that important, is it?

And you are going to want to look, because this is some impressive animation. Single images may not blow you away, but it's some of the smoothest cel-based character work done in years, favoring constant motion to limited animation or the beauty shots that frequently pause the sci-fi/fantasy features coming out of Japan. It's got a slicker, smoother veneer than even what comes out of Ghibli or Studio 4C, and even though there's obviously some computer assistance going on, the feel of the movie doesn't change much, even as the action amps up and down. The character designs are cartoony - Beautiful practically looks like a sex doll and Geko is ridiculously aerodynamic; Aachi's got a huge head and the Diaper Gang barely looks human - and contort in ways that CGI creations just don't.

The big action set-piece is a whole lot like the mine-car chase Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and that's not the only place Jo and writer Jeong Hye-won find inspiration; there's obvious callbacks to Basic Instinct and The Matrix (although that kind of action originated in animation, so we might as well say it's coming home). The action is ridiculously over the top, with hundreds of mutants getting their heads blown off and blood flying all over the place - couple that with the plentiful gross-out humor, and an R rating is the absolute best this film can hope for in the United States - but it's so fast and not-dwelled-on that the audience doesn't really have time to stay appalled. The movie is a constant string of that's so wrong!, and Jo is smart enough to realize that trying to give it any real weight would spoil the fun.

So he doesn't, and "Aachi & Ssipak" remains an hour and a half of light animated debauchery. It's probably destined to remain a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

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originally posted: 07/22/07 04:53:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.

User Comments

11/02/07 MF ADORED the Diaper Gang. Crazy storyline! 5 stars
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  DVD: 11-Mar-2014



Directed by
  Jo Beom-jin

Written by
  Jeong Hye-won

  Ryoo Seung-beom
  Im Chang-jung
  Hyun Young
  Shin Hae-chul
  Lee Gyu-hwa

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