South Korean TV soaps have been so popular in Taiwan that more and more TV-idol-starring movies are being introduced to the local market. One of these movies is the upcoming Mokpo, Gangster's Paradise, starring Cha In-pyo, the best-known South Korean idol in Taiwan.
Cha has been known as a romantic gentleman on screen, where he won him the nickname "lady-killer" in Taiwan. But in the gangster comedy Mokpo, he plays the bad guy, the leader of thugs, and shows off his muscles in boxing scenes.
Another actor, Jo Jae-hyeon, is also a familiar face for Taiwan's audiences. He is South Korean art-house talent Kim Ki-duk's favorite actor, and has starred in Kim's Crocodile, The Isle, Address Un-known and Bad Guy. Jo has taken a wide range of roles from innocent, timid young men to villains. In Mokpo, he is a good guy but runs into a string of bad luck.
His character, Lee Su-cheol, is a down-on-his-luck detective in Seoul who always makes a mess of the cases he pursues. His colleagues hate him and his superiors despise him.
When investigating a drug-dealing case, he finds that a gang from the city of Mokpo, known as gangster's paradise, is working behind the scenes. To find out more about the case, an undercover cop is needed to go to Mokpo to work with the gang leader Baek Seong-gi (Cha In-po). Since no one likes Lee, he is volunteered to go to the danger zone.
Lee suffers through a series of typical, comically violent situations. He is first sent to the boxing ring for a severe beating, and then he's sent to close a business deal with a dominatrix. Lee survives these tests and finally wins the trust of gang boss Baek Seong-gi, who, Lee later finds out, has an obsession with watching soap operas.
Mokpo is a typical South Korean comedy dense with violence, exaggerated performances and slapstick jokes. Both actors have given decent performances to show the borderline between good guy and bad guy, and also to show a friendship between the undercover cop and the gang leader. Very predictably, the undercover cop faces a moral dilemma between betraying his new friend and doing his job to bring the bad guy to justice.
The acting is a little overdone, and without the lure of two good actors, the movie is just another fast-paced, energetic comedy with a cliche story.
If South Korean comedy does not provide enough entertainment, there are 20 films available this week in a showcase called "2004 Best Local and Foreign Films" (
The Chinese Film Critics Association (
The Bollywood film Devdas was also selected for the top-10 list. The Association said the film was chosen for the glamorous art direction, unique and spectacular music and dance sequences and for upholding above-average technical values. All these qualities gave vigor to an old-fashioned love story.
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 was in the list for its stark, personal style of narrative, for breaking the convention of aloof and imperialist documentary-making and for bringing out a special cinematic charm.
Troy, Under the Tuscan Sun and Tim Burton's Big Fish are the three Hollywood films on the top-10 list.