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Save The Green Planet (KOREA 2003)


Director / Writer : Jang Jun-Hwan
Cast : Shin Ha-Kyun, Paek Yun-Sik, Hwang Jeong-Min, Lee Jae-Young, Lee Joo-Hyun

Byung-Gu explains to his girlfriend Sooni that aliens live on planet earth and are responsible for all the problems on the planet. Byung concludes that the wealthy and successful businessman Kang Man-Shik is a top alien and so he and Sooni kidnap the man in the hope that he will allow them to speak to the Alien Prince of Andromeda. When Man-Shik responds with confusion at his being kidnapped and doesn’t tell them what they want to hear, Byung-Gu is already prepared. To save the planet he will torture the truth out of the man…

by Martin Cleary

For some reason I thought that Save The Green Planet was a ‘crazy’ comedy. The film’s colourful posters and adverts all depict Shin Ha-Kyun smiling like a moron. Even looking at the dvd case I was still expecting something possibly Stephen Chow-like. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Green Planet is partly a comedy – and yes, it has some brilliantly funny scenes – but it’s also quite nasty. Think Reservoir Dogs meets Men In Black and that’s still only part-way to describing this amazing film from South Korea.

We know from the outset of STGP that Kang Man-Shik isn’t a very nice character. He’s a wealthy businessman who refuses to pay the driver the whole cost of the trip home, and he’s very drunk and leery. Then, Byung-Gu and his girlfriend Sooni turn up wearing ridiculous costumes and accuse him of being an alien from the planet Andromeda. We’re fairly convinced that Byung-Gu’s got a screw loose. The rich man seems to be an arse, not an alien. After a struggle, Byung-Gu and Sooni kidnap the man. All three of them arrive back at Byung-Gu’s house, where they strip Man-Shik down to his sparkly red boxer-shorts and shave his head (so he can’t call his alien friends for help through his hair). From here STGP slows down just for a
second, long enough for us to wonder just what the hell is going on here. To reveal anything that happens next would be unfair as the narrative spins of into all sorts of bizarre and brilliant angles. To call this off-beat is an understatement. What follows is part cop movie, part romance, part science fiction, part – well it’s hard to think of a film genre that isn’t in some way injected into the mix. There’s even a short martial arts fight scene! How the hell the director has managed to shoe-horn all of these elements in is beyond me. (A quick warning to anyone squeemish: one of the most surprising elements of the film is the violence – this film does get fairly nasty just when you’re not expecting it.)

As surprising as the film is, what is the biggest surprise is how well it all actually works together. You’re never quite sure who the victim is in the film, and there’s a strange attraction to all of the main characters. There’s no real un-likeable characters here, you like them all – which is unusual considering several of them perform some horrible torture and violence.I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but I was completely blown away by Save The Green Planet. The fact that this is a film from a first-time director is gob-smacking. With the majority of films you get to a point where you know roughly what will happen heading towards the end – I didn’t when I was watching this film. The film’s cast can not be praised highly enough – especially the two central performances from Shin Ha-Kyun and Paek Yun-Sik. Ha-Kyun takes that stupid grin from the film’s poster and turn’s it into a character of its own. In an amazing performance he manages to mix violence and anger with a genuine warmth and sympathy. The fact that Yun-Sik manages to match Ha-Kyun’s powerhouse performance is a sign of just how good this film is. As the tortured businessman he manages to convince that he is a complete and rounded character – yes he’s a bastard, but his sheer ‘hard-headedness’ is impressive. Also, worth a mention is Hwang Jeong-Min as the simple girlfriend Sooni. It’s a role which is tiny in size but she manages to make a large impact. Have I gushed on about this enough? I could keep going on about the cinematography, script and soundtrack all day – but I won’t.

I loved Save The Green Planet, it’s one of the most surprising films I’ve ever seen and although it won’t be to everyone’s taste (if you can’t stand violence then steer clear) it’s worth a look from anyone who likes something a bit different. If you do see it, you’ll never hear the song ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ in the same way again. See it!

Plot : 5/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 5/5

Notable Scenes
- Byung-Gu’s costume
- The opening theme tune
- The martial arts fight
- The anal probe (?!)
- The rest of the film!

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Save The Green Planet

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