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Issue #185 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES November 10th, 2003

My Wife is a Gangster
(2001; Suh Se-Won Production Co/Hyun Jin Cinema/Korea Pictures Co.)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Korean: Jopog manura
English: Gangster Wife

Cha Eun-jin (OUT OF JUSTICE's Shin Eun-kyung), aka Mantis, is a legend among South Korean mobsters for being tough as steel and able to defeat all comers at hand-to-hand combat. Among sub-bosses, she has no peer and, with her tomboy demeanor and thorough lack of social skills, certainly seems an unlikely candidate for domesticity. However, when her terminally ill sister begs her to take a husband, Eun-jin orders that one be found. This turns out to be a far more aggravating process than she expected, so Eun-jin takes it out on some men who were foolish enough to insult her. Coming to Eun-jin's "rescue" is chubby civil servant Kang Soo-il (THE FOUL KING's Park Sang-myeon), who ends up getting a cinder block in the noggin for his trouble. Eun-jin's flunkies (including HUMANIST's Ahn Jae-mo), however, decide that the seemingly slow-witted Soo-il is perfect date material for their boss. After only one meeting, he agrees to her proposal but the wedding is crashed (and almost trashed) by a rival ganglord and his minions, and the honeymoon is over before it starts. However, no matter how much abuse he has to take, Soo-il is determined to make this marriage work, particularly when Eun-jin's sister moves in with them. On top of this, the woman states her regret that she will never have children, which naturally prompts Eun-jin to try and ignite her non-existent sex life with Soo-il. There is also Eun-jin's other life, which the other two know nothing about.

While it does not rank among the forefront of recent Korean cinema, MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER is sufficiently inspired and enjoyable to be worth a look. Director Cho Jin-kyu includes some wire-enhanced, HK-style action and instances of fairly bloody violence, both of which might come as a surprise to Western viewers expecting a straight-ahead farce. There are also low-rent gags about fellatio and a subordinate's smelly feet, that pale beside the more character-generated laughs and the fun the movie has inverting the stereotype of a woman's place in Asian society. The storyline adheres mostly to formula but the film generates a lot of audience goodwill via Shin's impressively steely-eyed performance. While too petite to be fully convincing as a street fighting powerhouse, she manages to be so intense and focussed, you almost believe that Mantis really could rend a man limb from limb, if he was foolish enough to say the wrong thing. Park, meanwhile, plays the other end of the scale, with his cartoonish, befuddled expressions but the character's undying sincerity offers the appropriate contrast and the sentimental passages with the dying sibling are never cloying. Miramax has the remake rights to the picture and their version will apparently be a vehicle for Queen Latifah. The company also nabbed the domestic rights for the original, so those wanting it in their library are advised to get this import edition as there may never be a domestic DVD.

Cover art courtesy Bear.

Shin Eun-kyung (left) and Park Sang-myeon. Image courtesy Bear.

Park Sang-myeon and Shin Eun-kyung. Image courtesy Bear.
Bear (No Cat #) (South Korean label)

Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS

Korean Language Track

Optional English Subtitles

16 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.78:1)

Coded for ALL Regions (the packaging incorrectly carries the Region 3 symbol)

NTSC Format

107 Minutes

Contains moderate violence, coarse language, brief nudity, and mild sexual content

DVD menu courtesy Bear.

Australia: MA 15+ (Medium Level Violence)
Finland: K-15
Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore (theatrical): RA
Singapore: (video): PG [Passed With Cuts]
South Korea: 15

Virtually nothing to complain about here: the transfer is solid and colorful, with bottomless blacks, and the audio (also available in DTS) has solid impact during action sequences and is fine during the balance of the picture as well. The error-riddled English subtitles are the only let down. A theatrical trailer is included but that is just the start of the extras. A second disc includes cast and crew profiles, a multi-part "Making Of..." doc, numerous interviews, outtakes, and promotional footage. No English translation is provided for any of these materials but the extensive behind-the-scenes footage is still well worth watching and we are also shown some interesting dramatic bits from scenes that did not make the final cut. Beware: disc one's pan-and-scan option has been activated, so it will play cropped unless your player is set to widescreen. There is a poorly placed layer change at 1:00:54.

Shin Eun-kyung in the "Making Of..." segment devoted to the application of her
character's elaborate tattoo. Image courtesy Bear.

MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER is available at Poker Industries.

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