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Young Gun in the Time
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by Jay Seaver

"This Young-gun shoots a bit off-center."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I must admit that I wasn't a fan of Oh Young-doo's first feature, "Invasion of Alien Bikini", but it showed enough promise to make me curious about what he came up with next; it also won a bit of prize money and got the attention of investors that he had a somewhat larger shoestring budget for this follow-up. It's a lot better, though still pretty small-scale and rough.

Young-gun (Hong Young-geun) is a small-time private detective in Seoul, and business is not great; landlord/secretary Ha Sa-jang (Ha Eun-jeong) is threatening to kick him out when Choi Song-hyun (Choi Song-hyeon) shows up, asking him to kill someone for her. Well, that's not what he does, but as soon as she leaves the office, she's kidnapped. Tracking down the photo she gave him puts Young-gun on the radar of assassin Tik Taek-to (Bae Yong-geun), and leads him to... Song-hyun? Who doesn't know him, but says her recently-murdered boss was researching some sort of ancient time machine - that either makes things much more or much less confusing.

Really good time travel stories are tough nuts to crack, and when Oh's screenplay gets right down to it toward the end, it's kind of a sloppy mess, switching from paradoxes to predestination almost randomly depending on what would be most dramatic or cool at a given moment. It's not especially lazy, just rushed and ad-hoc - this movie was made fast and cheap, maybe not to the extent of its predecessor, but without much opportunity for polish. Oh mostly knows his limitations and how to work around them, and has a good core team both in front of and behind the camera that he can count on.

Indeed, folks who have seen Oh's earlier work in Alien Bikini and several segments of anthology The Neighbor Zombie will recognize most of the cast. The newcomer is Choi Song-hyeon, who probably has more of an established track record than the rest to the Korean audience, and turns the wattage way up when she's asked to be sort of kooky and eccentric Song-hyun is the sort of character that seems to slide from one end of her twenties to the other and back depending on the context, and while she's good all around, youthful enthusiasm suits her. She makes a fun pair with Hong Young-geun; they've got enough chemistry together to sell a romance by smiling at each other a few times. On their own, both Hong Young-geun and Bae Yong-geun get lines out well enough and aren't stiff moving from point A to point B, managing to be respectively affable and menacing. Ha Eun-jeong vamps it up as Young-gun's bitchy secretary/boss, adding some pulp brass to the modern but meek Young-gun and Song-hyun.

One thing that does turn out surprisingly good for the small budget is the action; the movie opens with a nicely-executed piece and has a few others as things go along, including a good climax. Maybe Oh didn't have time to get a lot of coverage to cut between, but what the combatants are doing is not hard to follow. Also nice is that even when Young-gun is holding his own, it's clear that Tik Taek-to is the better fighter. There's a bit of dodgy CGI in places, both in execution (a lot of stuff with Young-gun's artificial hand happens off-screen) and conception (a spreading bloodstain seems like too well-practiced a practical effect to both with this weak digital version), but plenty of bits that look neat and work as clever or gruesome twists.

It comes together as an enjoyable little movie, although admittedly one that would be difficult to recommend over the smooth, professional-looking picture playing in the same multiplex for the same price. Still, it is kind of fun to see Oh and company build their way up from rank amateurs to fimmakers worth keeping an eye on.

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originally posted: 09/23/12 14:30:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.
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User Comments

9/30/12 Ronald Holst I enjoyed this not a award winner but a fun movie 4 stars
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Directed by
  Young-doo Oh

Written by
  Young-doo Oh

  Young-geun Hong
  Song-Hyun Choi
  Eun-jung Ha
  Yong-geun Bae

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