Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Going by the Book

In a small Korean city a string of recent bank robberies has left the police stumped, and the public outraged. The angry citizens demand the police do something, so in a last ditch effort they bring in the new Police Chief Lee, played by the always menacing Son Byeong-ho. Immediately after he begins his new position he announces his plan to prepare his department to handle the continuing robberies. They will commence an exercise where the police themselves will hold a pretend robbery at a local bank in order to train themselves on how to properly handle the situation. All duty officers will draw a card with a certain task that can range from a bank client, to the robber himself. Unknowing to anyone else the Chief withholds the position of the Robber to be given to someone he chooses personally, a decision he would come to deeply regret.

On his way in on his first day he is pulled over by Traffic Cop Do-man, played brilliantly by Jeong jae-yeong, whom after finding out he had pulled over his new superior still continues issuing the ticket. Why? because it’s the law. Do-man has a ‘By the Book’ mentality (hence the title of the film) and will do everything in his power to obey his sworn duties. It is because of this enthusiastic attitude Chief Lee personally assigns him the duty of playing the robber, a task that Do-man does not take lightly, and because of this turns what was supposed to be a quick stunt to show the city they are ready to handle this new threat, and turns it into a humiliating day long nightmare. A pretend nightmare that is. . .

Going by the Book is a brilliant and original take on Bank Robbery/stand-off films. The idea alone of an entire film focusing on a police standoff, and hostage situation that for all intents and purposes is pretend, sounds rather ridiculous. Yet despite that it still has its share of comedy, drama, tension and suspense that is often highlighted by a brilliant performance from Jeong jae-yeong. The care and precision Do-man puts into a task is very impressive and can be hilarious at times. He even prepares cardboard signs for everyone to wear that would display their current status. Some would read ‘tied up’ and for other unfortunate wannabe heroes, ‘Killed’. Yes this pretend Heist also comes with its share of casualties, something that only fuels our poor unexpected Chief Lees even more while his planned Exercise further humiliates him and the Police.

It’s always a treat when film makers can find a way to take a fairly common theme, in this case a bank heist movie, and find a way to turn it into something original, and exciting. Originality in film making these days appears to be growing fewer and farther between. But Director Ra Hee-chan, and writers Jang Jin, and Lee Gyoo-bok has given us a true gen of a film, one that deserves more international exposure then it will probably get. Though it wouldn’t surprise anyone if this concept is taken by Hollywood and remade someday, at least for now it remains one of the most unique and original films in quite a while!


A Film by Ra Hee-chan

1 comment:

  1. Oh, nice! I've been meaning to pick up the Korean DVD, but I couldn't find any reviews of the movie, so I wasn't really sure if it would be worth it.