Despite being relatively unknown, "My Dear Desperado" was a very successful film, and had a large impact on India, where two remakes were shot, one in Hindi and one in Tamil.
Se-jin is a country girl who leaves her small hometown to come to Seoul. Initially, everything seems to be going well for her, as she lands an IT job and finds a boyfriend, who works as a programmer. Her days of joy, though, do not last for long, and eventually, her company goes bankrupt and her boyfriend finds a new job and leaves her.
Having to find a cheaper apartment to live, in order to manage for the time she will be looking for a job, she ends up in a poor neighborhood. Her neighbor is Dong-cheol, a self-proclaimed gangster, who is waiting for payback from his boss, for doing jail time in his stead. Apart from looking sinister though, he is not much of a gangster, since he is old and is beaten frequently. The two of them don't start along well, particularly due to his rudeness, but gradually, they start warming to each other. In the meanwhile, Se-jin is mocked at every interview she attends.
Kim Kwang-sik-I directs and pens a romantic comedy/drama that stands out from the plethora of films in the genre for two reasons. The first one is that he manages to retain an impressive balance between romance, comedy, and drama and the second, the chemistry of the two protagonists. Regarding the first aspect, Kim avoids the reef of having them act like caricatures, and does not throw an evident romance to the audience, since their relationship is quite complicated and is not clear if they will become a couple or remain friends. In that fashion, there are equal portions of all three elements.
Regarding the second aspect, the chemistry of the two protagonists benefits the most from two great performances. Park Joong-hoon is great as Dong-cheol, portraying a character who is actually a total loser, at least until he meets Se-jin, who gives a true purpose to his life. His prowess is evident in both the comic and the dramatic scenes, with the one where he has to face martial arts trainers and the final sequence being the most evident samples. Jung Yu-mi is also great as the fragile country girl, who seems to meet only hardships on her way and desperately searches for someone or something to hold on to. The way the two of them warm to each other is a great sample of their chemistry.
Go Nak-seon's cinematography presents realistic and occasionally beautiful urban images of Seoul, both in the offices of large corporations and the poor neighborhoods. Lee Jin's editing keeps the film flowing. Overall, the film's production values accompany, harmonically, the general aesthetics of the movie, without standing out.
"My Dear Desperado" is a very entertaining film that stands out chiefly due to its script and acting.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Available on DVD from YESASIA
DVD Single Disc (En Sub)
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[Guest Film Review] "My Dear Desperado""
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