Film & DVD Review
Geum-soon, once a top-ranked volleyball player, is now a common housewife with a six-month old daughter and a clumsy husband. On the first day her husband goes to work and she spends the day taking care of her little daughter who never stops crying. While Gum-soon is busy cleaning her house upon hearing her parents-in-law are coming on the next day, she gets a phone call from a club that they've arrested her husband for an unpaid bill. Amidst the merciless threatening of the gang in the club, Geum-soon rushes out into the night streets, still carrying her baby on her back. It's past midnight with less than three hours to go before her in-laws arrive. In the seediest part of Seoul, Geum-soon's husband is practically being held for ransom for the unpaid bill, Geum-soon has no clue where the bar is, two rival gangs are chasing after her, the pot is boiling at home, and her daughter is wailing while Geum-soon is leaping over trash cans in a dark alley. It's all a night's work for Geum-soon who's having the worst day of her life.
Have you ever been guilty of judging a book buy its cover, and that judgement being pretty much your sole reason for buying the book? Well I have been, not with a book though (I don't read much) but rather with a DVD. In fact I've done that lots of times but my most recent instance was this Korean film Saving My Hubby. The cover looked cool, it said 'Anamorphic Widescreen' on it and best of all it was cheap at ethaicd.com... I was sold.
Like most films though, the cover for Saving My Hubby does sex the film up a little bit. At no point in the film does Bae Doo-Na get a gun, let alone her baby, and she doesn't wear that outfit either! Regardless, it is still a very entertaining watch with a few very funny moments. The film is a bit like a cross between My Wife Is A Gangster and Adventures In Babysitting. The latter is a good film I remember from my youth, the former is a South Korean film that I found to be very much over-hyped and not particularly funny.
Bae Doo-Na is Geum-Soon, a young mother who used to be a professional volleyball player and one of the star players in the Korean team until she suffered a serious injury. Not playing volleyball, she married Joon-Tae (Kim Tae-Woo) and had a baby girl Sung-Yee. Joon-Tae is appointed in a new job, and wants to make a good impression on his first day in his new position, so when his boss and colleagues go out for food and drink after work, he feels obliged to go. This is despite him finding out that his parents have invited themselves round to his house the next morning at 5am!! Knowing that his parents are quite meticulous Geum-Soon wants to do what she can to make everything right for their visit and wants to prepare things specially. Joon-Tae, however, is being coerced into drinking games, and given that he cannot hold his drink at all, by the time he leaves he is completely wasted. Practically passing out drunk at the side of the road, he is 'helped' out by a rather dodgy looking passer-by. This passer-by takes him back to a night-club where they make it look as though he has eaten and drank a lot of food and drink. On finding that he has no credit cards, they call Geum-Soon and tell her that if she doesn't come and pay the huge bill they are going to break his legs, or worse.
With about 6 or 7 hours until her in-laws are due to come round, she has to venture to a dodgy part of the city with her baby on her back in order to bail out her husband. On her journey she meets a handful of different characters, and gets involved with things and people that she has no knowledge of, and we see how her actions have a ripple affecting many people around her.
The entire premise for Saving My Hubby is basically quite simple, as one the main plot kicks in, it is simply a woman trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible. Despite this sounding ridiculously simple, the filmmakers have managed to include enough believable distractions and incidents en route for the heroine that the simple task never becomes boring. One of the clever aspects of it all, which I particularly enjoyed, was the fact that Geum-Soon was completely oblivious to the consequences of some of her actions. By running away from one set of gang members, a different gang became very suspicious of that gang and through a few more chance encounters with her a gang war erupts. All this is behind the scenes in Geum-Soon's task, and she has no idea of the chaos that is in her wake.
The film is riddled with little comic moments, some of which are funnier than others but after watching the film it is clear which moments are the funniest and most memorable. Those moments are where fantasy and imagination meet reality. For a few moments in several places in the film we are taken into an imaginary fantasy world mimicking what is going on in the real world but more over the top. These moments are laugh out loud type humour, and even though they are short they clearly show that quality over quantity is always worth it. The other general comic moments are unfortunately not nearly as memorable. That is not saying that they are not funny, quite a few of them are, but the style of humour is far more 'hit-and-miss' in style and in a few instances it does miss, ruining the flow of the film.
The two main stars of the film, Bae Doo-Na and Kim Tae-Woo, have two very different roles to fill. Kim Tae-Woo has to spend most of the film acting either drunk or drunk and drugged, and in this he does very well. In order to appreciate his acting very drunk, I felt that it deserved some research into the subject matter so I decided to go out and get absolutely rat-arsed over the last weekend. While I didn't quite reach the levels of intoxication as I had planned or that Kim Tae-Woo was trying to portray, it was some fun research... Anyway, the slurring of speech, the clumsiness; it is all there. Once he gets drugged (of that I have no experience, although I think I had a major caffeine buzz once), he goes totally hyper, and is almost literally buzzing. Watching him as he is utterly oblivious to everything going on around him and is devoutly focussed on his task of knocking back a set sequence of drinks as quickly as possible, really is quite entertaining in a mildly familiar way!
Bae Doo-Na is the lead of the film, and I believe she carries it quite well. Due to the circumstances that he character finds herself in, she has more opportunity to show a far wider range of expressions and emotions. From the tired mother who just wants her baby to shut up so she can get some sleep, to the 'taking-no-sh!t' woman near the end of the film, her emotions are portrayed quite clearly. She has one of those faces that seems very suited to doing the anguished look.
On her journey Geum-Soon meets a whole host of different characters (for all of whom I don't the know the actor/actresses name, sorry!). There are a group of gang members who are intent on catching her. The leader of this small group is quite funny, from being relentless in his chase, as soon as he comes across a particular woman he changes 100% and tries to act all sweet and innocent! Then there is the most unlikely volleyball fan in the world, and the, supposedly, smoothest and coolest gang leader around... All supporting cast fill their roles adequately, with no one standing out as either being really good or really bad.
Saving My Hubby is not a film that will ever be considered a classic. Even though I do believe that it is quite a bit better than other films like My Wife Is A Gangster, I can kind of see the qualities in that film which got it the hype. This isn't a film that has that sort of style or potential to generate that hype, as it is far simpler in approach. My main criticism towards the film is that I don't think there is much repeat viewing factor to it, and despite me enjoying it, it isn't a film that I'm likely to go back to in a rush. For the price it can be bought for though, I do think it is worth that first viewing.
Audio & Subtitles
This Thai release of Saving My Hubby comes with a Korean Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack, and two Thai dubs. With the film being in Korean, that is the language I obviously chose to watch it in. As far as 5.1 audio tracks go, this one could have been a little better. I not sure whether the following are criticisms unique to this release, or whether they would be applicable to the Korean release as well, but I imagine it could be the latter as I can't imagine EVS doing their own 5.1 mix! Most of the audio comes from the front centre speaker. There are effects that are spread around the speakers, some ambient sounds and other discrete effects, but the speakers definitely were not used as much as they could have been. There were instances where the sounds could and should have been coming from the rear speakers but were not, which is a shame, as the my final impressions on the soundtrack were more that it was a highly glorified stereo track. The effects that were spread around made me certain that it wasn't really a stereo track, but what's the point of having 5 speakers if you are not going to use them when they should be used! This soundstage criticism aside, what audio there is is good enough. All speech is clear, as are the effects.
The English subtitles are basically brilliant. The only thing wrong with the English that I noticed was that in a few places they missed a space between two words, and didn't have a full stop at the end of a sentence. Other than that they were flawless. Strangely though, some Korean text is subtitled but some is not. The newspapers articles that Geum-Soon reminisces over are not subtitled, but bar signs and other things which are relevant to the film are... Had the newspapers and all the text that is not subtitled been subtitled, then the subtitles would have been nigh on perfect.
This Thai release of Saving My Hubby is presented with an anamorphic widescreen picture. On the whole it is very good. Colours are well saturated and detail levels are generally quite high. There is a little grain evident in some scenes, although I'm thinking I only really noticed it as I was specifically looking for it. Had I not been deliberately paying attention to it I doubt whether I would have picked up on it. Even though the colours are good and blacks are deep, unfortunately shadow detail isn't as good as it could have been. In the blacks, the dark greys that you'd hope for to see detail in the shadows are much darker and nearer black that would ideally be desired. It could be far worse, but I figured I had to criticise the picture for something!
DVD & Extras
The DVD comes with a few extras, and DVD menus that are in both English and Thai. There is the standard theatrical trailer for the film, an 'Other TV Spot' which is basically another short trailer and finally a 44 minute Making Of. This Making Of is in Korean with no subtitles at all. I just skimmed through it to see the scenes that didn't need and understanding of Korean to know what was going on. In doing this I saw them filming some scenes inside a boxing ring. A still from this scene is also on the back of the DVD cover. What caught my attention about this was that the scene they were filming did not appear in the film, or at least not this version. There was nothing about that looked as though it was going to be too violent or too anything that would require it to be cut by the Thai censors, so where this scene went I have no idea. I am going to try and find out if it is featured in the Korean release, or whether it was just for a little promo for the film. If I do find out, this paragraph will be updated.
To sum up, Saving My Hubby is a competent little comedy with a good performance from the leading lady Bae Doo-Na. There are some laugh out loud moments and some mild giggle moments, but overall the film will entertain you. The entertainment may be pretty mindless, but it is 90 minutes of your life which you could spend doing far worse things!
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