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by Jay Seaver

"Not exactly roaring."
3 stars

I suspect that "Twenty" being successful enough in South Korea to merit a quick try-to-beat-the-pirates release in the United States owes as much to the popularity of its good-looking young cast as anything else; it's not a particularly exceptional coming-of-age comedy. It's three smaller ones that aren't bad, and while the whole thing isn't what it could be, it's got a few bits worth seeing.

Twenty is the age of its main characters, who bonded in high school over a common crush on So-min (Jung So-min); she wound up dating Cha Chi-ho (Kim Woo-bin), the son of a successful restaurateur spending much of his time post-graduation in clubs and on one-night stands, at least until his car hits aspiring actress Heo Eun-hye (Jung Joo-yeon) and she blackmails him into posing as her manager on set. Honor student Kim Gyeung-jae (Kang Ha-neul) starts college and immediately becomes the subject of a drunken Facebook video, although that's how he meets the beautiful fast-driving star of the investment club, Jin-ju (Min Hyo-rin). Dong-woo (Lee Joon-ho), on the other hand, is still working multiple jobs and repeating his last year of school in hopes of scoring better on his college entry exams, and that has him seated next to Gyeung-jae's sarcastic little sister So-hee (Lee Yoo-bi) in most of his classes.

It's not a bad thing, per se, that all the of the movie's main characters are guys, but it seems kind of telling that one of the first scenes that has them interact with girls involves them fighting over who got to touch So-min's breasts without her seeming to have an opinion on the matter. Without saying too much, it would be nice if the women in these boys' lives, whether potential girlfriends or mothers, were a bit more substantive; even the ones who seem to have concerns besides how they relate to the guys tend to fall short of initial expectations. Sure, part of the point of this movie is that is being told from the point of view of young men with some maturation to come, but it would have been nice if that included more adult relationships.

Fortunately, that's not the entirety of the film, and truth be told, it's not like the male characters are so nuanced that the ladies egregiously pale in comparison - Min Hyo-rin, Jung Joo-yeon, and, Lee Yoo-bi turn in entertaining performances. Lee, in particular, seems to have great fun with how So-hee being about a year younger than the boys is both a big deal at that age but not nearly as big a deal as they often make it. The supporting cast in general is decent; even when they are written as fairly stock, the actors never take the audience out of a scene.

The main trio isn't bad either, although it's kind of interesting that they tend to function more as leads that the movie rotates between rather than an ensemble that gets to play off each other. It's a plan that mostly works, though - Kang Ha-neul (as the narrator, the presumptive lead) and Lee Joon-ho have a similar amiable charm, with Kang getting to play flustered more often while Lee getting to be frustrated by Dong-woo's family situation. Of course, in the film as in life, the bad boy is often the most memorable, and Kim Woo-bin dives into the lazy, not necessarily terribly bright, sex-crazed Chi-ho; he gets to be ridiculous and broad, but can be sneakily sincere when the time comes.

The tone is kind of mixed - it's a bit odd for a youth-oriented film to have one or two crude bits but otherwise be pretty tame. It often feels like writer/director Lee Byeong-heon is trying to do a little too much - with the three boys' stories fairly separate, none get much depth or even build a great deal of comic momentum. Still, when something clicks, like the hilarious showdown against a group of thugs shaking down their favorite restaurant at the film's climax that somehow never manages to outlive its welcome no matter how long it runs, it is, for that moment, a pretty darn good movie.

It's funny - you could make a decent movie focusing on any one of the main characters, but fitting them all into even a long-ish movie for its genre (115 minutes) means that they're all cut down too much but still kind of flabby. This is probably not much of an issue for those who are already fans of the cast from Korean TV, but those who aren't already might get a little fidgety.

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originally posted: 04/22/15 11:48:18
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Directed by
  Byeong-Heon Lee

Written by
  Byeong-Heon Lee

  Woo-bin Kim
  Jun-Ho Lee
  Ha-neul Kang
  Jung So-min
  Yoo-Bi Lee
  Hyo-rin Min

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