Caper movies are a special type of good mainstream fun. They are a demanding type, as the plans devised and/or thwarted and the sequence of events leading to the ending need to be both exciting and pretty hole-free. When done right, it is magic. Characters and actors also play a very important part in them, since they carry the weight of one specific situation and a much tighter focus. 'Going by the Book' is an interesting take on a heist film, but its unique idea stills fits that description.
When a town's new police chief (Son Byung-ho) is asked to do something about a string of bank robberies creating bad reputation for the force, he comes up with a plan to form a realistic police drill and gain the public's trust. Jeong Do-man (Jung Jae-young) is a recently demoted officer who is a perfectionist about his work. He sticks to the rules religiously and has great work ethics. Knowing of this, the chief asks Do-man to act out the role of the robber for the drill and demands he does it as realistically as possible.
The premise of a heist which is not a heist is both a brilliant new take on the type of movie, but it also allows for comedy and exploration of topics one would not see in such works. By making Do-man and the heist a police drill, the film not only parodies a lot of the things we see in similar works, but also goes through topics like safety measures, police procedure and bad planning, exposing just how bad handling can throw a situation out of control.
This allows it to be funny and light despite handling some very dark topics. There is also a good amount of playing with viewers in terms of what is real and what not, as we are often given real versions of situations that are in fact make-believe. This also functions well in creating doubt about Do-man's intentions and the movie plays with the idea that he might be considering turning the fake robbery into a real one. It also shows how the pressure he is under has a real impact, exploring things from the side of robbers as well.
The movie has great humor and its ensemble cast is absolutely lovely and very fit for comedy, each role having their little input in the mayhem. There are also some funny cameos and plenty of supporting roles, although this is also one of the film's flaws, as they are not all used well and their time could have been spent on other things. There is a corruption subplot which eventually becomes a bigger part of things, but it is not given enough attention for most of the film, making things a bit confusing when it is finally addressed.
Confusion is also present in certain parts of the main plot and mainly the resolution of it all. Since heist movies and plot holes do not go so well together, there are some things here which can have a solid explanation if one is willing to go the extra mile on the reasons behind them, but which also feel like things that would not happen in a real heist and therefore kind of break form. Given this is a comedy and that all the characters are aware of the situation, is it not such a big flaw, but the plans could have been paid a bit more attention to.
'Going by the Book' is a smart, funny and very fresh take on a beloved type of cinema. Led by the ever so wonderful in quirky roles Jung Jae-young and with a cast of veterans and fun younger talents, it goes above and beyond its premise and explores its concept in an entertaining way. While not as insightful or intricate as it could have been, it is still a little jewel of originality and outside the box thinking. Good comedy, good heist film.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Available on DVD from Amazon
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Going by the Book""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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