Quick (South Korea, 2011)
8 March, 2012
Having more or less caught up with all of this past summer’s major Korean releases, the first thing that comes to mind is that if I ever see a motorbike in a Korean film again, it will be far, far too soon. The two main culprits in my eyes are Sector 7 and Quick, and the thing that they share in common is Yoon Je-kyoon, the producer who was also the director behind such hits as My Boss, My Hero (2001), Sex Is Zero (2002), Miracle on 1st Street (2007), and Haeundae (2009). Not too long ago, I decided to savage Sector 7 in my review since I felt it was a disaster that needed to be called out for contempt that the filmmakers had toward its audience, thinking moviegoers would be content with novel 3D effects at the expense of a solid story and engaging characters. Thankfully, spectators rejected the film; it suffered one of the most calamitous post-opening weekend drops in Korean film history.
Quick is not as bad as Sector 7, but it does demonstrate a similar lack of respect towards its viewers. What I mean to say is that it’s an overburdened everything-but-the-kitchen-sink comedy-actioneer that is designed to appeal to everyone, but could never hope to satisfy anyone. There is very little that the filmmakers didn’t throw in to the mix in a bid to attract viewers: K-pop, gangsters, biker gangs, youth violence, washboard abs, scantily clad women, inefficient police, romance, and of course melodrama, all that in addition to the heavy doses of action and comedy.
Gi-soo is a former bike gang leader who now works as a speedy bike messenger. One day he is sent to pick up Ah-rom, a major K-pop star, who turns out to be his ex-girlfriend. She puts on his helmet, but while he was away, someone has put a bomb in it. Now he must do an unknown man’s bidding with the police and an old rival on his tail.
Quick is primarily an action film and it borrows its concept (and its name) from the popular ’90s Hollywood summer blockbuster Speed (1994), starring Keanu Reeves. The action is relentless and the filmmakers cram in pile-ups, explosions, and as much speed as they can into the narrative. I must say that the action sequences are for the most part convincing, but they are just variations on a theme and don’t offer anything that hasn’t been seen before. There’s also a tendency to blend the comedy in with the action. However, these efforts, rather than add up to something better, mostly fall flat.
Comedy is a large part of Quick, but I think it was either a poor choice or badly handled as it is the cause of most of the film’s many problems. It’s not particularly funny and, as I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t blend well with the action. Beyond that, it poses two significant issues. Since a lot of the film is played for laughs, there is no real urgency and the stakes feel very low, a big no-no for an action film. Secondly, I found the two leads to be terrible, mainly because they have no comic timing. I know that Lee Min-ki’s new film Spellbound has been received very enthusiastically, but in Quick, he’s just a pretty face and his performance is not only hamfisted but also very unbalanced because his character Gi-Soo never felt like, well, a character. Kang Ye-won is not someone I was very familiar with beforehand but I did recognize her from last year’s Hello Ghost and she seems to be a Yoon Je-kyoon stalwart, this being the fourth film of his she has starred in. Again, she is a pretty face who only seems capable of overacting and her grating performance quickly overstays its welcome.
Quick does feel like a missed opportunity though. At times, with all the different factions facing off against each other, I felt this could have been like an anarchic Kim Sang-jin (Attack the Gas Station, 1999; Kick the Moon, 2001) film but it’s far too consumerist and cynical to pull that off. The film lacks a raison d’être, it is merely an excuse for fast vehicles and pyrotechnics and it expects to impress with its stunts and explosions rather than offer an original presentation of them.
Forgive the bad pun, but I think the film was made a little too quickly. Elements designed to draw in viewers were thrown together, explosions littered the marketing, numerous mid-level stars were cast in small roles, but at no point was any effort put into the story, the characters, or the style of the film. What we’re left with looks more like a drawn-out music video than a feature film and that is definitely not what I go to the movies for.
Pierce Conran writes for Modern Korean Cinema, Twitch and currently lives in South Korea.