Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Runway Cop ( 차형사 / Cha Hyung-Sa)


Our desire to improve ourselves, especially in the physical sense, is fodder for Asian comedy films these days. It's no denying we'd generally like to look better and weigh lesser, and these are ready made premises that allows a comedy to be built upon, clearly taking a swipe at these flimsy wants. Japan had a restauranteur don a Handsome Suits in order to gain model good looks, while Korea played on the weight and plastic surgery issues with 200 Pounds Beauty. Here, we deal with poor hygiene and the lack of etiquette, conditions found acceptable by the sloth-like Detective Cha Chul-soo (Kang Ji-hwan).

From the get go, Kang Ji-hwan's titular character is primed for physical comedy, with excuses painted to explain why any man would degenerate into a helpless situation like his, being the ridicule of fellow policemen. His clothes stink as much as his mouth, and his ultimate weapon in interrogations torture is his socks. Be warned though, even though you're seated in front of the screen, these sequences are shot in such vivid terms, you'll probably be feeling just as nauseaus as the unfortunate characters caught in Detective Cha's gunsights.

An undercover mission to pose as a male model will change all that, and job requirements meant transforming himself with great pain into a sculpted Greek god, unbelievable of course given the timeline, but this is movie fantasy after all. Given intel that the drug cartel had infiltrated the fashion industry, the cops enlist the help of rookie designer Ko Young-jae (singer Sung Yu-ri) to turn their only 180cm tall hope into a believable model for infiltration and investigations, with the latter using her launch showcase as a front for this purpose. And to add some value on the romantic front, both Cha and Ko turn out to be one-time classmates.

The movie is what you would call an inconsistent screwball comedy where everything goes, be it smaller, nonsensical moments being played out to fine effect, or larger scaled comedic sequences that felt overly long, losing its intended impact and effect on the audience. Director Shin Tae-ra seemed to have yet to find the knack to craft punchy scenes, and the middle section somewhat sagged due to unnecessary repetition of audition scenes, and the fish-out-of-water moments.

If compared to films like 200 Pounds Beauty and Handsome Suits, Kang Ji-hwan's character began as quite the lout, and didn't possess as much pahos as the lead characters in the other films, which makes him lose out in terms of getting the audience to sympathize with his predicament. More so as the challenge at hand didn't stem from deep, personal reasons, but more from a professional one. Jo-hwan did well as the sloppy looking detective, but didn't have much of a personality shine through when spending more time in the film as the slimmed down male model, relying on supporting caricatures to help lift the film through its limp stages. Yu-ri was equally culpable as the lead actress that wasn't really the best of roles, being average and generic for the most parts.

Runway Cop has an interesting premise and sets itself up for a rip-roaring fun time in the cinema, but ultimately got undone by sticking to a formula that allowed it to go all over the place narratively. It's understood that the nonsensical comedy style is a draw, but this requires skill to craft, that director Shin hasn't manage to possess yet.

Runway Cop opens in cinemas from Thu 17 Jan.

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