In doing a little online research about this pretty damn kooky South Korean action comedy drama, I discovered quite by accident that it’s actually a remake of a fairly obscure 1990 Hollywood movie by the same title. It’s quite commonly accepted that part of the reason South Korean cinema is experiencing such a boom at the moment is its ability to emulate Hollywood, and this movie is a perfect example.
Having said that, while I’ve not seen the Hollywood version, something tells me the high-concept silliness of the premise is inevitably more at home in the remake. While Hollywood’s tendency is to give us a dopey setup and then spend the rest of the movie trying to legitimise it, this version just revels in it. But yes, there’s plenty of Hollywood here too, right down to the chase scene on the freeway in which one of the cars crashes into a whole bunch of conveniently positioned plastic barrels full of water.
At the heart of the movie – and it does have a heart, of sorts – is a weirdly charismatic performance by Lee Bum-soo as the corrupt on his worst day, barely competent on his best day, cop, Lee Dae-ro. Then there’s his precocious and positively adorable daughter, Hyun-ji, who has mastered probably the best expression of reproachful contempt in the history of child acting. The rest of the movie is populated by the same kind of overtly expressive character performances that owe more to Hong Kong than Hollywood, and naturally the villain, Baby, is the guy with the blond hair.
The story progresses more or less as you’d expect, depending on your level of familiarity with the venal-jerk-redeems-himself genre, including the predictable but entertaining montage in which Dae-ro embarks on a series of suicidal endeavors of law-enforcement, utterly fails to get himself killed, and becomes a celebrated hero cop. Given the premise, there is of course often the threat of overt sentiment about the value of life and such, but Short Time‘s comedic roots usually cut in just in time to (at one point literally) slap the sappy gunk across the head.
Debut director Lee Young-eun puts things together in the sort of style typical of first-timers who’ve been lucky enough to end up with fairly substantial budgets. That is to say, a lot of fireworks and twirling about of the camera. There’s a hilarious “bullet time” sequence which works beautifully both as parody and as a pretty damn impressive piece of trickery in its own right.
Hard not to like this movie, but also hard to give it any more than an average-ish rating. It’s an inconsequential trifle you’ll forget about in five minutes flat, but quite pleasurable to watch. So yeah, see it.