Probably one of the greatest accomplishments of contemporary Korean cinema, "Save the Green Planet" is a great movie that manages to combine slapstick comedy with science fiction, film noir, thriller, and horror, with exploitation elements in the most impressive way.
Byeong-goo believes that all of the planet's troubles are the consequence of aliens that inhabit Earth and that unless he can meet the prince from Andromeda before the total lunar eclipse, the world will be in grave danger. With the help of his girlfriend and sidekick, Soon-i, he manages to kidnap President Kang, the CEO of a chemical company, which seems like the most likely candidate to be an alien, and a being that will allow him to meet the prince. Thus starts the (mostly) psychological battle between the two, while former Inspector Choo and Inspector Kim are investigating the case.
Jang Joon-hwan directs and pens a really weird film that begins as the story of a madman before it reveals the reasons behind his madness in very dramatic fashion, only to burn up everything up again in the end. In the middle of this, there is action, violence including torture, elements of a crime film through the investigation of the two detectives, and much surrealism, which is presented, though, in a fashion that leaves the audience wondering if the images depicted on screen are actually the fantasies of a madman or an extreme reality. The psychological thriller elements are also among the highlights of the narrative, thorugh the "contest" between kidnapper and captured, particularly after the latter decides to fight back by slamming the former verbally.
His characters are also impressive in their conception, with the maniac young man, the "ballerina", the sociopath CEO, the failed detective and the up and coming one creating a quintet that highlights the film's diversity and slapstick nature, as much as a number of aspects of Korean society. This element benefits the most from the acting and the casting, with Shin Ha-kyun as Byeong-goo, Hwang Jung-min-I as his sidekick, Baek Yoon-sik as President Kang, Lee Jae Yong-I as Detective Choo and Lee Joo-hyun as Detective Kim playing their parts in complete resonance with the film's aesthetics.
Hong Kyung-pyo's cinematography implements Jang Joon-hwan's fantasy in the best way, as he managed to shoot completely different settings with equal artistry. Jang Geun-yeong and Kim Kyeong-hie's production design is one of the film's best assets, with the basement, the house, the fish factory and a number of other locations being rather impressive. The same applies to Park Kok-ji's editing who depicts Byeong-goo's world in a way that retains the question of what is reality and what fantasy with elaborateness.
Additionally featuring a great finale, and a number of twists better left unsaid in this review, "Save the Green Planet" is a masterpiece curio, and at the same time, so much more.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Available on DVD from Amazon
DVD US (Torture Cover) (En Sub)
DVD US (Tame Cover) (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] "Save the Green Planet""
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