She's On Duty (South Korea 2005)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 7/17/05
Director: K.C. Park
Cast: Kim Seon-Ah, Gong Yu, Nam Sang-Mi

Uh, wow... Korean filmmakers are masters of genre mixing, and "She's On Duty" is no exception. It combines equal parts of goofy humor, tense action, teary romance, grim violence, and gut-wrenching drama into a surprisingly cohesive whole. An important crime lord has decided to testify against his boss in exchange for police protection and a reduced sentence. Unfortunately, the bad guys get to him first and now he's in hiding. The key to dragging him out is his lovely teenage daughter (heartbreakingly beautiful Nam Sang-Mi), and the police send detective Jane Chun (superb Kim Seon-Ah) to the school as an undercover agent to keep an eye on her. A constant victim of bad luck and circumstance, Chun is always in trouble, picking fights and cheating on exams. An awkward love triangle forms when handsome No-Young (Gong Yu) shows up, who is also not who he seems. When the bad guys finally make their move, the police operation goes haywire and Chun must both save and betray her new friends.

While this is an excellently made film, let me just say that the majority of its success lies in Kim Seon-Ah's incredible performance and presence. She is an extremely expressive actress who is equally comfortable with comedy, action, and drama, and her comedic timing is superb. She's also incredibly pretty. Watching the outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, it's apparent that this was a very physically demanding role for her, but the final results are extremely convincing. The only thing that can take your eyes off of Kim Seon-Ah is the impossibly pretty Nam Sang-Mi, who plays the role of despondent high school girl to perfection. She's also a very capable actress, and her scenes with Seon-Ah are wonderful. The action scenes are executed, filmed, and edited very well, moving at a comfortable pace that is neither too slow or too fast. My only complaint would be some out of place wire stunts here and there. The only other disappointments in the film are not seeing Chun's initial fight with the high school girl gang (it happens off camera), and not seeing the villain's female assistant fight more. Sadly, her one big fight scene got cut in favor of a different demise. Overall, I found "She's On Duty" to be a wonderful surprise, and highly entertaining throughout. It definitely satisfied my girls with guns craving and has rekindled my interest in Korean cinema.