With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ACF 1869: Korean comedy caper GOING BY THE BOOK available today

CJ Entertainment and
5 Points Pictures
 Going By the Book / Bareug salja
Directed by RA Hee-chan
South Korea, 2007, 103 minutes
Two-disc, special-edition DVD

Going By the Book, a most unusual bank-heist caper, becomes available today, Tuesday, April 16th, in a terrific two-disc, special-edition from CJ Entertainment and 5 Points Pictures. It's based on the Japanese film Bang! (Asobi no Jikan wa Owaranai, 1991) by Sadaaki Haginiwa. Korean director JANG Jin (Good Morning President) wrote the screenplay for this version, which he also produced. Going By the Book marks the feature film directorial debut of RA Hee-chan, who previously served as assistant director on some of JANG's films.

What's unusual about Going By the Book is that the bank robbery is being perpetrated by a police officer in the line of duty!

JUNG Do-man (JUNG Jae-young, the very talented and incredibly handsome actor who played the village chief in Moss) is an upright, righteous, inflexible, by-the-book traffic cop in the small city of Sam-po. He used to be a criminal investigator, but was demoted two years earlier when he investigated, but was unable to prove, a corruption scandal involving the region's governor.

When LEE Seung-woo (SON Byung-ho, The Good, The Bad, The Weird) comes fo Sam-po to take over as the new police chief, he makes an illegal turn and is pulled over by Do-man. Even after he's identified himself as the incoming police chief, Do-man insists that LEE produce his driver's license, he's that rigid about enforcing the letter of the law.

LEE, who expects to be in Sam-po for only about six months before moving up to the central office, learns that the city recently has had a rash of bank robberies. He decides to conduct a training exercise to improve the effectiveness of the police force and capture the criminals. While the various roles such as undercover officer, citizen, and responder are determined randomly by drawing slips of paper, LEE deliberately and secretly picks JUNG to be the bank robber, expecting that he will "go by the book" and really try to carry out his role to the best of his abilities. JUNG, prophetically as it turns out, warns LEE that he might come to regret his decision.

The film works so wonderfully for several reasons. First off, the entire cast is terrific. Besides the two leads already mentioned, there are several supporting characters who give it their all. These tend to be divided into two groups: the "outsiders" who respond to the alarm that a bank robbery is in progress, and the "insiders" who are stuck inside the bank. Two of the females are particularly worth mentioning. Actress LEE Young-eun plays JEON Da-hye, a lovely bank teller who remains poised throughout. CHO Shi-nae portrays Miss LEE, another bank teller, but one who becomes emotionally unstable in the course of the robbery exercise.

Another factor in the film's success is director RA's adept handling, not only of the film in general, but of the extended sequences within the physically limited space of the bank's interior. Smart editing in terms of cutting from the interior scenes to those of the police and SWAT team on the outside keeps the  story from becoming claustrophobic.

But for me the film really makes it as a comedy because it is played so naturally. The actors are very straightforward in their portrayals, not over the top. This allows the laughs -- and there are plenty of them -- to grow naturally out of the situation and the responses of the characters to developments.

The new English-language subtitles on the film disc are offered as either monochrome (white-only) or dual-colored (white and yellow). Personally I prefer the latter, as they make it easier for me to understand when a different character is speaking when multiple lines of subtitles are on the screen at the same time. I've liked this approach as far back as when I watched VHS tapes of Japanese films from AnimEigo's Samurai Cinema offerings, and it's a nice touch for 5 Points Pictures to be offering them also.

There are more than an hour and forty-five minutes (!) of extras on disc two:
- Think Right
- A Simulated Bank Robbery: The Making of Going By the Book
- The Way He Goes By the Book
- Cheerful Hostages & Distressing Police
- deleted scenes with on/off director's commentary
- poster shoot video
- production announcement (premiere and press conference)
- an animated promotional short
- a music video
- the original South Korean trailer
- cast and crew bios
- 5 Points Pictures trailers

Several extras include interviews with the director, producer and/or cast members. Almost every time one of them comes on screen they are identified by their own name, and in the case of cast members by their character's name. Another nice touch that's very considerate of the viewer. Thanks CJ and 5 Points.

ACF Rating: film - 3.5 out of 4 stars, very highly recommended; extras - 4 out of 4 stars, both for quality (outstanding) and quantity (again, 1 hour and 45+ minutes!).