Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Banchikwang
South Korea, 2000. B.O.M. Film Productions Co.. Screenplay by Jee-woon Kim. Cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong. Produced by Jung-Wan Oh. Music by Young-gyu Jang, Byung-hoon Lee. Production Design by In-jun Hwang. Film Editing by Im-Pyo Ko. Toronto International Film Festival 2000.
Comedies about underdogs succeeding in unusual fields of excellence are nothing new to cinemagoers, they’ve been pleasing crowds for years, but when they’re done well and include the right formula of inspired casting, high stakes and a well worked-out plot, the old feels new again, and that is what is accomplished here. Kang-ho Song rightfully became a huge star for his full-bodied performance as a depressed corporate banking employee who is routinely physically assaulted by his boss, while at home he is constantly criticized by his disapproving father. A lifelong fan of professional wrestling, he sees a posting looking for students at the gym of a broken down ex-wrestler (Hang-Seon Jang) who has long since given up on gleaning any joy from his work, and Song inspires the man’s ridicule by asking to train with him. The old man is approached by the promoter for an up-and-coming hotshot wrestling pro, and is asked if he can maybe supply a patsy who will take the fall in highly publicized match and help his client reach higher professional goals, and a plan is formulated: Song is trained to fight believably and choreographed into the planned result of the match, but as he increases his abilities, it affects how he deals with everything not going right in his life (and not always in good ways). Nothing is overstated in this movie, there are no big moments accompanied by manipulative swelling music, in fact director Jee-woon Kim manages to find quite a few surprises in the formula, but the humor is rich throughout and the film includes a number of memorable, laugh-out-loud moments.