A college movie that distills and transfers moments from US films like American Pie, Bring it On, Road Movie, this is an unashamedly juvenile boobs and, gasp, jism fest that features some of the zaniest characters yet to grace Seoul’s downtown multiplexes. Brimming with self-confidence in the deployment of its gags, it works well as a gross out comedy but the simple love story that is supposedly at its core scores less than zero.
Written and directed by the prolific Yoon (who helmed Crazy Assassins, My Boss My Hero, and scripted Can’t Live Without Robbery), Sex is Zero was an unlikely winner at the theatrical box office in its year of release (2002-3), pipping some lordly Rings movie for fifth place. Impressive, so it has to be taken seriously … even though it figuratively has its pants down.
There are plenty of humorous moments, if you find it funny watching the incredibly awkward actions of brainless, but beautiful people. Since we’re laughing at this ridiculous bunch of jerks, I think it helps that they’re mostly law students. I especially like one character, the ‘leader’ of the boys’ Taekwondo-plus demonstration club, who is typed as the quiet, handsome, romantic sort. The only problem is that when he actually does something, like open his mouth, it becomes quickly apparent that he’s an offbeat moron. Little games like this between filmmaker and spectator are pulled off with ease, much like the remainder of the girls’ lingerie in the fairly explicit sex scenes. One of these is unfortunately yet another example of patriarchal molestation in Korean cinema, a near-rape scene that lacks a valid reason for its existence. The guy in question even gets to slam the likeable hero (Im, Bet On My Disco) on the head with a silver tray in a later scene … who knows, perhaps he’s connected to the financers? (Well, you have to draw conclusions like this when rape activities in Korean films crop up like waving flags in US films — naturally and without so much as a passing comment.)
If you’re willing to slap the love story in the face like you wish you could do to most of the people in this story, and if you have some kind of affinity to life on a college campus then you may well find yourself chortling in anguish, pointing in horror and flat-out busting valves in laughter (or otherwise). If you’re serious about trash teen entertainment or if like me you’ve just watched a disappointing ‘quality’ film, it’s a breath of strangely acceptable putrid air.