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Incredible 'Hong's' Offers Comedy, Action

2009/11/19 | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

"Descendants of Hong Gil-dong" ("Hong's Family Business" - working title) by Jeong Yong-ki, who directed the second and third installments of the "Marrying the Mafia" series, brings yet another family slapstick that provides bona fide lighthearted entertainment.

Earlier this year, mid-budget films such as "Speedy Scandal" have shown that good old humor rooted in witty ideas can prevail. "Hong's" relies on classic formulas ― a cast of endearing actors playing quirky characters, B-movie humor that retains a certain uniformity in the internal logic of the film and an adeptly crafted mise-en-scene that shows that mind boggling spectacles aren't crucial to a fulfilling audiovisual experience.

The Hongs are the perfect model family ― Mu-hyeok (played by the popular Lee Beom-soo), a darling high school music teacher, and his cheerful student-cum-younger brother Chan-hyeok have a respected professor for a father and a mother who exemplifies the ideal housewife.

But appearances can often be deceiving; once the sun sets, the Hongs cross over to the "dark side" and busy themselves with the family thieving business (though the operation excludes underage Chan-hyeok).

The Hongs are the Descendants of Hong Gil-dong, the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the hardworking poor. The tradition has been passed down for 18 generations ― stealing only from the rich and never for personal reasons ― transferring all spoils to the poor and keeping the family's actions secret.

And so the Hongs have been trained in the art of picking locks, physical combat, wall-climbing and other stunt skills, and possess CIA-worthy knowledge about security systems in order to take from corrupt business moguls such as Lee Jeong-min. Funnyman Kim Soo-ro, whose bizarre screen presence is enough to incite giggles, stars as the Hongs' arch nemesis who has a fetish for sparkly track suits and superhero action figures. His family had been "exploited" by the Hong family business for generations.

The humor lies in the craftily edited, B-movie reels of the heist: Professor Hong trades in his tweed jacket for James Bond-esque sunglasses while the missus pulls off various disguises in order to assist Mu-hyeok, who, using sophisticated "home-made" gadgets and his innate talents, nimbly succeeds in dodging traps and getting the cash. The Hongs complete the missions by leaving behind a "Hong Gil-dong" nametag, before donating the money to a good cause.

Living on the other side of the law, however, even if it is for an "honorable" purpose, is far from easy. The pressure to keep the family secret becomes a problem in Mu-hyeok's plans to marry his girlfriend/colleague Yeon-hwa (Lee Si-young), especially when her brother Jae-pil turns out to be none other than a public prosecutor.

Things become complicated when Lee finds out that his assistant Su-yeong had been acting as a spy for the Hongs. When Su-yeong loses her life trying to protect the Hongs' secret, Mu-hyeok decides to break up with Yeon-hwa and prepares for a faceoff with Lee. The process inevitably involves forming a shaky alliance with Jae-pil, who had been trailing Lee, and the Hongs prepare for the biggest heist of their lives.

While the film showcases everything that people love about local comedies ― without starring gangsters ― it could have, however, done without some of the more crude slapstick (Yeon-hwa, who seems to have a borderline personality disorder to begin with, has a rather disturbing post-breakup meltdown) and outbursts of physical violence that seem a bit much for a movie rated 12 and over.

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