Oh, the travails of watching films in Kathmandu! I had planned to review Hairspray, only to discover that the content of the DVD was an action-comedy from another nation. But what a welcome surprise! So what if I don't get to report how good John Travolta was in drag.
Korean flick My Wife Is a Gangster 3 supplies gender role reversals in abundance, and perhaps in a kinkier vein than Hollywood's Hairspray.
Yes, kinky, once again. I had thought that the sadomasochist humour of My Sassy Girl was an anomaly. Instead, it seems, ass-kicking dominatrixes are the norm for Korean cinema. God knows what kind of hell was raised by the heroines in the previous two instalments, but in Gangster 3 Aryong (Shu) gets to trample the egos of male gangsters all over Hong Kong and Korea. An icily self-possessed and menacingly stubborn gangster princess, she is above the niceties of her father's criminal court and above the foolishness of her custodians. She batters men with the flick of a finger and routs mobs in a jiffy.
The story begins when Aryong is accused of decapitating a lieutenant of her father's rival gang and has to be evicted from Hong Kong. Choosing Korea for exile, she falls into the care of a petty henchman Ki-Cul (Lee) and his boys, whose hopeless attempts to impress her only get them into more trouble.
In a way Gangster 3 is a flippant nod to the Yakuza films of neighboring Japan. The brooding soundtrack that accompanies Aeyoung during the action scenes may even weirdly remind you of Kill Bill (Tarantino's tribute to Yakuza). Gangster 3, however, never gets as gory or as grave. There is enough action to warn you never to mess with hot, mopey chicks. But, really, the fight scenes are barely satisfactory.
What you will find to your heart's content is humour. Just the shenanigans of translation provides so much farce, it is incredible that director Jin-gyu Cho keeps the running gag for so long without cloying. Yeon-hee (Hyeon) has too much fun as the translator between Chinese Aryong and the Korean goons, filtering the content depending on her disposition, awfully sweet when the characters threaten each other and foreboding during friendlier bouts.
You wouldn't expect it, but Gangster 3 is a highly entertaining film. As the plot gets knottier, it is amazing how smoothly this noir turns into slapstick. And let me tell you, I haven't laughed as loudly at a movie in a very long time.
My Wife is a Gangster 3
Cast: Qi Shu, Beom-su Lee, Yeong Hyeon. 2006.
In Korean, with English subtitles.