Director: Park Han-joon
Cast: Kim Jung-hwa, Gong Yoo, Nam Sang-mi
(Possible spoiler below! Read at your own risk.)
After its domestic release in January 2004, Spy Girl quickly made its way to Hong Kong nine months later. But this light-hearted romantic comedy didn't get a theatrical distribution, it was instead targeted for a direct video release. Considering the quality of the movie, it's not hard to understand why the distributor would have made such a decision.
Featuring a story about spy activities, Spy Girl is actually a very typical romantic comedy that is not unfamiliar to Korean movie lovers. The theme of the movie is still the usual disabled love relationship. The only difference is that since this is a comedy, nobody actually dies, while departure is inevitable though. The story kicks off with North Korean spy Kye-soon (Kim Jung-hwa)'s infiltration into the territory of South Korea. She disguises as a waitress in a fast food store and is soon spotted by a tutoring class student Ko-bong (Gong Yoo). As expected, The two begin to develop some kind of relationship, but due to the secret identity of Kye-soon, they are never able to really get together...
Some people try to relate the construction of Korean "fatal love" genre to the history of Korea. The dying lovers who fail to get together symbolizes the ambivalent and subconscious mind of many Koreans in which their families are separated because of the division of the country. Until death, many of them are not able to see their relatives again. The theme of Spy Girl is more or less the same. However, unlike the metaphorical romance movies, it in fact states in an explicit manner that love is impossible between the two protagonists because of their national affiliation. In the middle of the movie, Kye-soon also sings a song that expresses the dream of unification of the nation.
Although the theme is rather obvious and easy to get, the plot is nevertheless mediocre. Basically, it is no different from any of its counterparts. The entire movie is composed of bits of bits of elements that seem to have drawn inspiration from many sources. The most apparent element is probably the continuation of the "strong female weak male" trend. The movie further exploits it by depicting every female characters as powerful and tough, while the males are generally weak and gutless. For instance, both Kye-soon and her archenemy Jin-ah (Nam Sang-mi) are almost like street fighters, whenever they havr argument, they would turn to fist fight as a resolve. While the males, like Gong Yoo and the superior of Kye-soon, are always afraid of their girls.
The two leads, Kim Jung-hwa and Gong Yoo, are both new talents. Perhaps it is because of the lack of a glamorous appearance, the two of them do fit their roles perfectly as an ordinary waitress and student. Supporting actress Nam Sang-mi is also impressive. To be honest, I actually found her more appealing than Kim Jung-hwa somehow...
Spy Girl isn't a bad movie, but not a good one either. The good thing is that despite a generally cliched story structure, there are nevertheless quite some funny moments that can keep you entertained, while the down side is probably the cultural theme that may seem bewildering and less engaging to many non-Korean audiences.
Reviewed by: Kantorates