It has been a little longer than I expected to get round to my latest post. I would like to say it is because I have been busy. The rather sadder truth is that actually I have been spending my watching time involved in an interesting new Korean Drama, and those things are mightily addictive. But I have now caught up with the schedules so it will be back to an episode a week for me, so more film goodness on its way!
Then again, I have not chosen a very good film to share with you all. And shame on me, but I knew this coming into it, Best Friend had warned me this one was a load of tosh, but after the revisit of “Dead Friend”, I thought another film from one of my favourite Korean Actresses, Kim Ha-neul, would be suitable. Sadly, this one proves that you can pop one of my favourite actresses into a movie, and still it cannot be saved.
“My Girlfriend Is An Agent” is the story of Ahn Soo-ji (Kim Ha-neul) who is a top spy for the National Intelligence Service. Of course, this role has to be kept secret from the man in her life, Lee Jae-joon (Kang Ji-hwan), which leads to her having to lie a lot and often run away on “Travel Agent Business”. This is too much for poor Ji-hwan, and he eventually resolves to leave her, and go abroad. We pick up the story some three years later, when Jae-joon re-encounters Soo-ji in the middle of one of her missions. Although Soo-ji has met and intends to marry another man, the whole event has sorely hurt her, but through the bitterness, there is still a spark between them. The problem is, Jae-joon has also independently become a spy for the same agency in the mean time, although he works in a different department. And he is really not very good at it. So we no spend time with them both trying to work on the same case and possibly rekindling their relationship, but with each totally ignorant of the others secret life.
To read the blurb of this film, and some of the less detailed reviews on the internet, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is some Korean version of “Mr and Mrs Smith”, although in truth, any similarities are merely in the overall idea of two people in a relationship being spies. Some might say that is a good thing of course! This film does have the trappings of a modern Hollywood spy thriller, and maybe with some work, it actually could have pulled it of. Sadly, aside from a rather hackneyed plot involving Russian spies and devastating Viruses (and lets face it, even in 2009 we were so over those particular themes), the film decides to concentrate on a more comedic romance approach. Which again would be fine, if it worked.
The action, when it does appear is a little lacklustre. It has all the modern tricks of a Hollywood Spy movie, but without the explosive payoff. Which means we get the exciting score and fast cutting camera-work, but none of the thrill. Now, this isn’t my favourite genre by any stretch, but I am capable of leaving my brain at home and enjoying a big popcorn action adventure. But, if it doesn’t excite, then I am afraid I am just going to get bored, and start picking at the holes.
And there is a huge hole. These two work for the same agency. In fact I think they might even work in adjacent offices. At one point they get both their respective teams to spy on the other. Yet at no point do any of these spies work out the identity of the other. This does not stop them having super recognition software capable of identifying third parties though. Sometimes, I could forgive this, but it really does seem to be a terrible fault running through the core of this film.
So maybe it works because it is funny? Well to be fair, there are a couple of chuckles along the way – Kang Ji-hwan obviously has some talent for comedy, and there are moments when he gets to shine, especially when sharing the screen with his immediate superior. But on the whole the jokes feel laboured, and repetitive. Kim Ha-neul does not get as much of a chance to have as much fun, which is a shame. To be fair, she is traditionally associated with more mundane, girl-next-door roles, and to see her in this film is a little jarring. Actually, this is probably the most physically attractive I have ever seen her, but her character never quite gets sold to me. Even when we get to moments in the film that could work to her strengths, she is not given enough time before a poorly timed joke or an argument breaks out.
So yes, that’s the third area the film breaks down. I really got no sense of romance between the two. All we ever really get is the breakdown of their previous relationship, never any sense about how much they actually cared for each other. When they meet again, they are constantly arguing, even during the obvious reconciliation at the end. When a Korean film can’t even get the melodrama right, you know something is off. The irony is that the two leads were cast as they had an obvious chemistry in a popular TV drama, but here I really did not ever feel they were quite on the same emotional page at all.
So what we have here is an action film with little action, a comedy with mere moments of humour, and a romance that just does not sell itself. It is not eyeball pulling out terrible, but it certainly would not be a film I would recommend anyone to watch. One for us Kim Ha-neul completists methinks.