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[MOVIE REVIEW] 'Going by the Book' relies on Jang's comedy

2007/09/27 Source

"Going by the Book" (Bareugae salja) is directed by Ra Hee-chan but critics and media, perhaps understandably, have focused on the fact that it is written by Jang Jin, who directed a string of hit movies, including "Welcome to Dongmakgol".

The film, released on Oct. 18, has all the dramatic hallmarks of Jang's style, peppered with skewered sense of humor and featuring a show-stealing topsy-turvy situation.

The unabashedly comic film revolves around a by-the-book traffic cop whose uprightness -- or stupidity -- sparks off a series of events that shed light on what a truly disastrous bank robbery means.

That helpless policeman is Do-man, played by Jung Jae-young, who has appeared in most of the films Jang Jin has directed.

Do-man used to be a competent detective, clamping down on violent criminals. But his 'unbendable' character has dragged his career down to, well, a traffic department. Even at the usually eventless unit, Do-man constantly clashes with other people, including his own boss, Captain Lee (Son Byung-ho). As a strict traffic cop, Do-man gives Captain Lee traffic tickets, sending a clear-cut message that rules are rules, and there's no exception in the justice system.

But the justice system's biggest problem in the small city of Sampo is a string of bank robberies which have scared the public to a dangerous level in the eyes of Captain Lee.

Noticing a chance to nab baddies and climb the police ladder quickly, Captain Lee designs a scheme, called "Simulated Bank Robbery Training".

The goals Captain Lee sets are ambitious. By playing out a realistic situation comparable to a real bank robbery, he aims to showcase the superb competence of the police, thereby assuring the public about the city's security.

As expected, Captain Lee orders Do-man to play the bank robber, the central character in the much-touted simulated training session. What Captain Lee does not realize is that Do-man is a man who sticks to the rule and goes by the book, literally all the time, even during simulated training.

The simulated robbery turns into something real, a set piece that triggers a host of embarrassing developments. TV crews rush to the scene to broadcast this intriguingly live action at a bank.

As with other Jang Jin comedy films, "Going by the Book" relies heavily on the absurdity of an ironic and unstoppable situation. Then again, this heavy dependence on strange developments can be overdone and overused.

Even considering that the film does not set any lofty goal in terms of dramatic sophistication, the central plot seems to have completely lost perspective.

Another problem is that there is no personal color whatsoever from director Ra Hee-chan. Instead, the film embodies what Jang Jin has been doing over the past decade.

At a recent press preview in Seoul, director Ra said that he did not want to distinguish himself from Jang Jin's style. "Director Jang helped me a lot for this movie, and I didn't do anything to go beyond him in any way", he said.

Meanwhile, Jang not only wrote the script but also did the overall planning for the project and worked as a chief producer.

Director Ra said his focus was to create a story that plays out fast. However, it is unclear whether the audience will perceive any pace at all toward the end of a film saddled with a slow-paced confrontation that is far from innovative.

By Yang Sung-jin

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