Friday, May 04, 2007

Save the Green Planet (2003)

Save the Green Planet (2003)

Weird movie alert! 'Save the Green Planet' is one of those relatively obscure, unseen, and absolutely bizarre films. You know the kind. Actually, you don't, because this South Korean film really stands on its own as something completely unique. It's a comedy / drama / horror / sci-fi / thriller, and it really does embody the attributes of all of those genres.

The story revolves around a man named Byeong-gu, who together with his gymnast girlfriend kidnaps a corporate executive because he believes the man to be an alien (the outer space kind) involved in experiments on Earth and an impending invasion. After kidnapping him, the two of them torture him to get him to confess and to put them in touch with the alien 'prince'. It turns out that Byeong-gu has actually done this before to lots of people, all of whom he believed to be aliens. This part of the film plays as straight up horror and also has some sci-fi elements. The police, meanwhile, attempt to locate the executive. Against the orders of the lead investigator, a young police detective teams up with a disgraced ex-cop turned fish-market worker / private detective to help solve the case. The private detective tracks down a lead and investigates Byeong-gu. These parts of the movie play like a police procedural thriller. The drama part of the film plays out in the midst of these two story lines as Byeong-gu's tragic history is revealed.

All of the elements of the film are mixed with comedy, to such an extent that the tone can shift dramatically in mere moments from serious to comical. And the comedy elements are actually really, really funny, though you would be forgiven for feeling queasy about laughing at some of the things that take place. All the different genres are represented at a very high standard; none of it is done half-assed, which is a credit to writer / director Jang Jun-hwan. The concept is original, as is the execution, with the story twisting and turning and never predictable. The characters, via a combination of writing, directing, and performance, are given a fair amount of depth, despite some of them (i.e. the cops) being unabashedly clichéd.

The battle of wits between captor and captive is engrossing, and its remarkable how often the film manages to shift sympathy from one to the other. Byeong-gu's history is so well presented that you can't help but sympathize with him despite the horrific things he does. And while the executive is ostensibly the victim, the film demonstrates that he has a shady past; in a different film, his character could easily be a corporate villain.

'Save the Green Planet' is a bizarre and completely unpredictable film, and surely one of the most original films... well, ever! It's not for the squeamish - though not gratuitous it is quite violent. It is thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking (anything that can muddy the line between hero and villain the way this film does should provoke at least a little thought from anyone), and definitely deserves to be seen.

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