Film Review: My Girlfriend Is an Agent



   There are some movies which never seem to exist entirely independently in their own right. Guy Ritchie, for example, is a director who's early oeuvre was judged (poorly) in the shadow of the gangster pictures Quentin Tarantino was then creating from his own, personal memories of exploitation cinema. That Ritchie removed any of the wit and invention his American counterpart showcased substituting, instead, any hint of intelligence for a vague sense of "London" certainly did the Englishman no favours.

   Casting an equally large shadow over Asian comedy is the 2001 masterpiece My Sassy Girl (by Kwak Jae-yong) - a film which managed to re-invent the genre in it's own image; a youth-based, kinetic blend of slapstick, sentimentally and boundless enthusiasm for the medium. It is through this filter that most Korean comedy is now viewed and judged - it's influence extending past the confines of the edges of it's own narrative and deep into the psyche of many modern movie-makers in the region. It is through this filter which My Girlfriend Is an Agent (7급 공무원) is also viewed and sadly, like the features of Guy Ritchie, it is a movie which struggles to escape its influences, coming across as a sub-par version of another film rather than as a feature in its own right.

   Shin Tae-ra's feature stars the luminous Kim Ha-neul as Ahn Soo-ji; a lady who is a veteran of the secret services but, due to her role, has to hide her true identity from those around her - if this means taking a slight detour on the propsed day of her nupitals and negotiating a thrilling jet-ski chase in her wedding dress, so be it. Yet, the more she tries to hide her bizarre disappearances and apparently erratic behaviour, the more clear it becomes she's hiding something.

   Lee Jae-joon (Kang Ji-hwan) is an ex of Ahn's who grew tired of her irrational and deceitful ways, causing them to part. He too, however, had a secret of his own; Lee is also a member of the secret services but, alas, not at all successful and, due to his clumsy and goofish nature, has never been out on the field on a case. This all changes when a Russian organised crime group conspire to steal chemical weapons from Korea and, due to unforseen, and slightly contrived, circumstances both Lee and Ahn are assigned the case to stop them. Can they resolve their lingering resentment for one another, keep their secrets hidden AND save the day too?

   Although the premise sounds incredibly similar to Mr and Mrs Smith its clear to those who have seen My Sassy Girl where the true main tide of influence stems from. The dynamic here (of the strong female and the comically subservient male) borrows heavily from Kwak's timeless comedy and the splicing of genres (here action and comedy) is familiar to those who have familiarity with Korean cinema. Whilst Kim Ha-neul's characteristically winning turn does raise the occasional smile, the longer that one spends time in the presence of this film, the more one's mind drifts away to the much funnier and charming My Sassy Girl. It's the cinematic equivalent of going on a date and spending the evening thinking of an entirely different person to present company.
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2 comments

  1. I watched this film a few months back (mainly because Kang Ji Hwan was in it!) and agreed it's not as good as some of the classics ( 100 days with MR Arrogant is great and Ha Ji Won is such a good actress)

    The main part I laughed at was the part where Kang Ji Hwan was battling the russian bad guy with the BB guns, otherwise, not many laugh out loud moments!

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    Replies
    1. I agree - 100 Days With Mr Arrogant is pretty awesome!
      The BB Gun scene was ludicrous and I think I may have had a guilty chuckle, but not my fave!

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