Seok-gi (played by Lee Jong-hyuk) is a hot shot lawyer who's a bit of an arrogant jerk. Seok-gi is the kind of guy who thinks he has friends because people are polite to him, and therefore, why bother making new friends? Consider how upon receiving a birthday present from Jin-yeong (played by Kim Hyun-joo), Seok-gi never stops to wonder why no one else gives him birthday presents. Then, Seok-gi meets the other Seok-gi (played by Lee Jong-hyuk) and, well, that's where life starts to get weird.
"Shinsukki Blues" is all about punishment. Seok-gi is a jerk, and he constantly gets his face shoved into the fact as necessary to heighten the sense of despair. Seok-gi is ultimately able to gain some form of redemption, though, by using the other Seok-gi to attack his old legal life aiming less at revenge so much as redemption. The villains of "Shinsukki Blues", while largely undeveloped, are as such because they have the same basically selfish unreflective personality that Seok-gi himself did at the beginning of the film. They're stand-in proxies.
Jin-yeong, by contrast, is easily sympathetic and very lovable, which is why Seok-gi's rotten treatment of her at the start of "Shinsukki Blues" ends up hitting him so hard. The moral arc of "Shinsukki Blues" is about as simple as you can get- genuinely nice people deserve sympathy, even if they look funny or stupid. Genuinely bad people, however smart of attractive they look, deserve to have horrible things happen to them. Seok-gi learns to appreciate this thanks to a brutal uncaring world that literally rips his life away.
This brand of sadism is what defines most of the movie's humor. The other Seok-gi, for example, in addition to sounding like an idiot all the time also has very bad digestion problems. This is not an advantage in a courtroom context, and Seok-gi has to learn to deal with that. Actually having to put a serious effort into lawyering changes Seok-gi for the better, since it makes him appreciate that the finer things in life have to be fought for to be valuable in any way.
...Which again doesn't really help with very rote overall message. Supernatural elements notwithstanding "Shinsukki Blues" is a fairly standard comedy. Consider how writer/director Kim Do-hyeok has little apparent interest in the main gimmick that sets the plot off. We never do find out what happens to the other Seok-gi, and Seok-gi himself gives up surprisingly quickly on trying to grab his old life back due to constant humiliating setbacks. While the best of these jokes can be hilarious, they nonetheless tend to prevent forward movement on the plot.
The decent sense of humor is the main thing preventing me from disliking "Shinsukki Blues" all that much. Maybe it's just the dopey expression on Lee Deok-jae's face every time he goes through another indignity. That, coupled with the generally archetypal story, make "Shinsukki Blues" pretty easy to understand. Cheap physical humor combined with a basic morality play may not make for great art but it's passable enough.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD and VCD from YESASIA
DVD (TW - En Sub)
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Shinsukki Blues" + DVD Giveaway"
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