“Attack the Gas Station 2” is director Kim Sang Jin’s sequel to his 1999 smash hit, a film which also found cult popularity in the west. Having since helmed the likes of “Mission Possible: Kidnapping Granny K” and “Ghost House”, Kim is certainly a man who knows offbeat comedy, and he here returns to the same formula which made the original so popular, mixing action, laughs and social commentary into an entertaining, fast moving ensemble piece. With actor Park Yeong Gyu back as the hapless owner of the gas station, the cast is filled with a host of new young stars, including Ji Hyun Woo (“Fly High”), Jo Han Sun (“Lost and Found”), Mun Won Joo (“Modern Boy”), and Jeong Jae Hun (“Public Enemy Returns”).
The film takes place in and around the very same gas station, and begins with owner Mr. Park being robbed by another bunch of young bike punks. This time however, he has his own gang of toughs to sort them out, namely the laidback kimchi heir One Punch (Ji Hyun Woo), former star football player High Kick (Jo Han Sun), potbellied wrestler Body Twist (Moon Won Joo), and the manic Yaburi (Jeong Jae Hoon). Although the four easily defeat and capture the attackers, Park makes the mistake of not paying them, and they soon turn the tables on their shabby employer by taking over the gas station themselves, hoping to make back their money through a night’s work. Unfortunately, matters soon spiral way out of control as a series of unwanted visitors turn up, including a prison bus, gangsters, and yet more bikers.
Although far from being a rerun of the original, “Attack the Gas Station 2” essentially works for the same reasons, being an ever escalating series of offbeat events that land its ensemble cast in increasingly precarious situations. Colourful and crazy from pretty much the first frame, director Kim manages to keep the film sprinting along at a high energy pace for the entire running time, with there always being something going on and something else just around the corner. The script is sharp, well structured, and inventive in its off the wall ways of adding to the people trapped at the gas station, with each new arrival making the possibility of chaos and destruction all the more real. The film is fun rather than tense, though exciting and engaging throughout, and Kim makes great use of its one location, playing upon the fact that a stray match could quite literally blow the whole place sky high, taking the entire cast with it.
The film’s real strength lies in its characters, with even the most minor players having some kind of amusing hook or gimmick. The four young leads are all likeable rogues, and there is a real sense of camaraderie as they bounce off each other and bicker. Since most of the film revolves around characters doing idiotic things and making their own situations worse, this kind of amiability is essential in ensuring that things never become too exasperating. The film does function as a comedy of errors, and is very funny, if perhaps not in quite as black or socially relevant way as its predecessor. Kim does take a few stabs at commentary, mainly at the hypocrisy of the older generation, and this gives the film a certain spirit, if not quite of anarchy, then at least of youthful exuberance.
Kim’s direction is stylised, though not overly so, and he shows a good use of fast editing and visual trickery. Again, this helps to add a further jolt of energy to the proceedings, and fits well with the overall mood. The film is action packed, with lots of brawling and messy, though well choreographed fight scenes and beatings, most of which result in various parts of the building being smashed and wrecked. The last half hour is pretty wild, with the final sequences basically being one long mass battle, as the long threatened mayhem finally erupts in highly enjoyable fashion.
As a result, although it may not seem like the most necessary of sequels, “Attack the Gas Station 2” is an admirable follow up, which successfully plays to the strengths of the original while adding something new and exciting. Since there hasn’t been anything else quite like it in the eleven years since its release, Kim’s return to familiar territory is a welcome one indeed, and the film is markedly different and indeed more enjoyable than most other Korean blockbusters of late.
Sang-Jin Kim (director) / Sang-yeol Baek (screenplay)
CAST: Hyun-woo Joo, Han-seon Jo, Jong-hak Baek, Won-ju Moon, Park Young-Kyu, Cho Han-Sun