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Ko - production in Busan
  • Comedies Line Up to Soothe COVID-19 Worries
  • by Pierce Conran /  Aug 10, 2020
  • As Business Warms Up, Distributors Swap Action for Laughs

    2020 has been a rough year for the film business, but in Korea at least, the last few weeks have brought with them a ray of hope, as a few big-budget action tentpoles have proven that some audiences are willing to return to cinemas. But now it’s time for something different. Hoping to serve up a tonic to the masses that have had their lives turned upside down by COVID-19 these past six months, Korea’s distributors are lining up a series of broad comedy titles throughout most of August.

    In addition to being somewhat cheaper films with lower break-even points, which makes them more ideally suited to the depressed grosses of the COVID-19 era, this crop of films may serve as a form of comfort for viewers during what has been a difficult year. An array of top stars are headlining these films, which are suitable for all ages and largely focus on disrupted family dynamics, something most viewers will be able to relate to.

    OK! Madam

    Director LEE Cheol-ha
    Cast UHM Jeong-hwa, PARK Sung-woong
    Release Date August 12

    Looking to kick off the wave of comedies at the late summer box office, after a steak of largely testosterone-driven action titles, will be the high-concept title OK! MADAM. Singer-actress UHM Jeong-hwa, star of Princess Aurora (2005) and Montage (2013), takes on the lead role, with PARK Sung-woong of New World (2013) and The Shameless (2015) appearing alongside her.

    UHM plays Mi-young, a woman running a local snacks store in a traditional market, while her husband Seok-hwan, played by PARK, works as a computer repairman. Seok-hwan wins a free trip to Hawaii one day and the couple excitedly prepare for their first ever overseas trip together. However, once they’ve boarded their plane, things start to fall apart. Unbeknownst to them, their fellow passengers include terrorists who have boarded the aircraft looking for a secret agent. Before long, the passengers become hostages and it is up to Mi-young and Seok-hwan to save the day.

    OK! MADAM is the latest film by director LEE Cheol-ha, a filmmaker known for jumping across very different genres across his filmography, such as the romantic drama Love Me Not (2006), the interactive movie Story of Wine (2008), the documentary Hello?! Orchestra (2013) and the thriller INASANE from 2016. The film was produced by Sanai Pictures, normally known for hard-hitting masculine fare such as New World (2013) and Asura : The City of Madness (2016), and will be distributed by Megabox Plus M.

    The Therapist: Fist of Tae-baek

    Director CHOI Sang-hun
    Cast OH Ji-ho, SHIN So-yul,
    Release Date August 20

    The second film from CHOI Sang-hun, who debuted with the horror film The Whispering in 2018, The Therapist: Fist of Tae-baek stars OH Ji-ho, known for Sector 7 (2011) and The Grand Heist (2012), alongside SHIN So-yul of A Violent Prosecutor (2016) and the CHO Sung-kyu indie Passing Summer (2018). Prior to its August 20 commerce release, CHOI’s film had its world premiere at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan), where it screened in the Korean Fantastic Features Competition.

    Seong-joon (OH Ji-ho) is a devoted martial arts student who is practicing to master the art of Taebaekwon, but the night before he is to enter a final round of an important competition, he disappears, leaving his mentor and fellow student and friend behind. He meets Bomi (SHIN So-yul) by chance and the pair are soon married. He moves to a different town with Bomi, has a child with her and the two eventually set up an acupuncture clinic, but after a slow start, Bomi finds out about some of Seong-joon’s special Taebaekwon skills, and she pivots the business into a finger-pressure treatment clinic. Success soon finds them, but so do loan sharks and shady redevelopers.

    The Golden Holiday

    Director KIM Bong-han
    Cast KWAK Do-won, KIM Dae-myeong, KIM Hee-won, KIM Sang-ho
    Release Date August

    Already on screen in the geopolitical action-drama Steel Rain2: Summit, KWAK Do-won will appear once more in cinemas this August in a very different kind of film, as the lead of the Showbox title The Golden Holiday. Shot on location in the Philippines, the film, which is the sophomore effort for ORDINARY PERSON (2017) director KIM Bong-han, assembles an array of popular character actors, such as KIM Dae-myeong (Bluebeard, 2017), KIM Hee-won (The Merciless, 2017) and KIM Sang-ho (Haemoo, 2014).

    On the occasion of their tenth wedding anniversary, Byung-su (KWAK Do-won), a slacker countryside detective, brings his family to the Philippines for a holiday. However, Byung-su has a hidden agenda; he’s hoping to track down his old friend Yong-bae (KIM Sang-ho), who swindled him out of a large sum years ago and absconded with it. Byung-su tracks Yong-bae down in a prison, where he is serving a sentence for murder. Yong-bae tells him a tale about ‘Yamashita’s Gold’, and after being promised a share of the spoils, Byung-su gets involved in a case that will soon find him in over his head.

    The Golden Holiday is the second major Korean film this summer to be mostly shot in a Southeast Asian country, following DELIVER US FROM EVIL in Thailand. Previous Korean works shot in the Philippines include the indie film Fire in Hell (2014) and the star-driven thriller Master (2016).

    Oh! My Gran

    Director JUNG Se-kyo
    Cast NA Moon-hee, LEE Hee-jun
    Release Date September 2

    One of Korea’s most popular senior stars, NA Moon-hee has carved a niche for herself in comedic and broadly appealing titles, such as Miss Granny (2014), I Can Speak (2017) and last year’s A Little Princess (2019). This summer, she returns in Oh! My Gran, which, just like A Little Princess (2019), sees her playing a character afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

    Moon-hee (NA Moon-hee) sees herself as a princess in an animated TV show, but in reality she’s a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, who is cared for by her son DU-won (LEE Hee-jun) and her granddaughter Bo-mi. One night, while out with Bo-mi, Moon-hee witnesses her granddaughter being knocked down in a hit-and-run accident. She is the only witness but her gibberish testimony is of no use to investigators. While Bo-mi is in a coma and with the police useless, Du-won looks to track down the perpetrator himself, with only a few shreds of evidence and his mother’s unclear but possibly crucial ramblings about the evening.

    Appearing alongside NA is the supporting star LEE Hee-jun, seen in such diverse works as 1987: When the Day Comes (2017), Miss Baek (2018) and this year’s The Man Standing Next. The film is the narrative feature debut of director JUNG Se-kyo, who previously made the documentary Roaring Currents: The Road of the Admiral (2015), a documentary about the hit film Roaring Currents (2014).
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