Lee Si-young, left, and Lee Beom-su appear in a scene from "Hong's Family Business'' (working title) by director Jeong Yong-ki. / Courtesy of SK Telecom
By Lee Hyo-won
``Hong's Family Business'' (working title) by Jeong Yong-ki, who directed the second and third installments of the ``Marrying the Mafia'' series, brings yet another family slapstick that provides bona fide lighthearted entertainment.
Earlier this year, mid-budget films such as ``Scandal Makers'' have shown that good old humor rooted in witty ideas can prevail. ``Hong's'' relies on classic formulas ― a cast of endearing actors playing quirky characters, B-movie humor that retains a certain uniformity in the internal logic of the film and an adeptly crafted mise-en-scene that shows that mind boggling spectacles aren't crucial to a fulfilling audiovisual experience.
The Hongs are the perfect model family ― Mu-hyeok (played by the popular Lee Beom-su), a darling high school music teacher, and his cheerful student-cum-younger brother Chan-hyeok have a respected professor for a father and a mother who exemplifies the ideal housewife.
But appearances can often be deceiving; once the sun sets, the Hongs cross over to the ``dark side'' and busy themselves with the family thieving business (though the operation excludes underage Chan-hyeok).
The Hongs are the descendants of Hong Gil-dong, the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the hardworking poor. The tradition has been passed down for 18 generations ― stealing only from the rich and never for personal reasons ― transferring all spoils to the poor and keeping the family's actions secret.
And so the Hongs have been trained in the art of picking locks, physical combat, wall-climbing and other stunt skills, and possess CIA-worthy knowledge about security systems in order to take from corrupt business moguls such as Lee Jeong-min. Funnyman Kim Su-ro, whose bizarre screen presence is enough to incite giggles, stars as the Hongs' arch nemesis who has a fetish for sparkly track suits and superhero action figures. His family had been ``exploited'' by the Hong family business for generations.
The humor lies in the craftily edited, B-movie reels of the heist: Professor Hong trades in his tweed jacket for James Bond-esque sunglasses while the missus pulls off various disguises in order to assist Mu-hyeok, who, using sophisticated ``home-made'' gadgets and his innate talents, nimbly succeeds in dodging traps and getting the cash. The Hongs complete the missions by leaving behind a ``Hong Gil-dong'' nametag, before donating the money to a good cause.
Living on the other side of the law, however, even if it is for an ``honorable'' purpose, is far from easy. The pressure to keep the family secret becomes a problem in Mu-hyeok's plans to marry his girlfriend/colleague Yeon-hwa (Lee Si-young), especially when her brother Jae-pil turns out to be none other than a public prosecutor.
Things become complicated when Lee finds out that his assistant Su-yeong had been acting as a spy for the Hongs. When Su-yeong loses her life trying to protect the Hongs' secret, Mu-hyeok decides to break up with Yeon-hwa and prepares for a faceoff with Lee. The process inevitably involves forming a shaky alliance with Jae-pil, who had been trailing Lee, and the Hongs prepare for the biggest heist of their lives.
While the film showcases everything that people love about local comedies ― without starring gangsters ― it could have, however, done without some of the more crude slapstick (Yeon-hwa, who seems to have a borderline personality disorder to begin with, has a rather disturbing post-breakup meltdown) and outbursts of physical violence that seem a bit much for a movie rated 12 and over.
In theaters Nov. 26. Distributed by SK Telecom.