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The South Korean movie “Blue” is basically “Top Gun” with scuba gear instead of Tomcats. Depending on how you feel about deep sea diving, this may or may not be a good thing. Like a lot of people, I’ve never been a big fan of the water or all the other things people do around water, which may explain why there have been few, if any, movies about the Coast Guard.
“Blue” stars Hyeon-jun Shin (“Gingko Bed”) as Kim Jun, the best deep sea diver in the South Korean Navy’s rescue unit. Along with childhood friend Tae-hyeon (Yeong-ho Kim), Jun had joined the Navy, where they both fell for the same girl, although it’s the free-spirited Jun who gets her. Eun-kyung Shin (“My Wife is a Gangster”) plays Su-jin, the third part in this familiar love triangle. When Jun accidentally discovers that his buddy Tae-hyeon also has feelings for Su-jin, Jun resolves to save the friendship by cutting all ties with Su-jin, even though he obviously really loves her. (I think it’s an Asian thing.)
Fast-forward to 3 years later, and Jun and Tae-hyeon are still good friends and Lieutenants in the Navy. But the status quo is shattered with the return of Su-jin, who has come back to command their unit. Besides exploring their secret feelings and hidden resentments toward each other, the trio also has to deal with Su-yeong Ryu (“Summertime”), playing a loose cannon on the unit, and Il-jae Lee as the type of ambitious military officer that gives all military officers in predictable military movies bad names.
The most interesting thing about “Blue” isn’t its trivial love story or its deep sea hijinks (both of which really doesn’t deserve an hour and 40 minutes of running length), but rather the career of actress Eun-kyung Shin. After her breakout turn as the battling gangster in “My Wife is a Gangster”, it’s disheartening to see her in two mediocre movies in a row. Her turn as a cop in the confusing mess that was “This is Law” and now, as a timid officer in “Blue”, are big disappointments for this particular fan. She’s a better actress than this, and after the success of “Gangster”, I had expected her to be in line for much better movie roles.
The detouring career of a fine actress aside, “Blue” is a big budget endeavor, and it shows. The movie is slick, and Jeong-Kuk Lee’s direction is deserving of the money put into this film. Unfortunately the screenplay by Hae-gon Kim is formulaic and predictable, which will sink (no pun intended) an expensive movie any day. Even the movie’s final action sequence, involving the rescue of a sunken submarine, is really nothing to write home about. (Again, this could just be because of my lackluster reaction to movies about deep sea diving, but I doubt it.)
Surprisingly, the best moments of “Blue” involves the rescue unit out of uniform and their interaction with each other. There is a funny scene where the divers get drunk and dance around like maniacs at a karaoke bar. I also enjoyed the seething animosity between Tae-hyeon and Su-yeong Ryu’s Sergeant Lee, which culminates in one of those “let’s take off our rank and duke it out” scenes. The romance between the three primaries, on the other hand, reeks of simplicity and as a result, you wonder if these characters are in fact adults and not characters in a Teen Movie gone horribly awry.
But “Blue” is mostly entertaining fluff, which means I was rarely bored by its segments, rather under the ocean or on land. Mostly Hyeon-jun Shin’s clowning around saved the day, while Yeong-ho Kim’s Tae-hyeon character is completely devoid of a sense of humor or personality. Perhaps that’s the way the character was written, but God is he boring. And he wonders why Su-jin has eyes only for Jun? Why would anyone want to attach herself to a sinking rock like Tae-hyeon? Even if the Tae-hyeon character is supposed to be a super serious military officer, there’s really no excuse for not giving him any hint of a personality.
Go into “Blue” for the big budget and slick production, but don’t expect much else. Unlike “Top Gun”, which featured innovative action sequences that are still being used as stock footages to this day, there’s none of that in 2003’s “Blue”. For some, the final sequence with the sunken submarine might prove to be exciting, but it just didn’t do it for me. Not much of “Blue” did it for me, actually, but for some reason I didn’t seem to mind. Not too much, anyway.
Jeong-Kuk Lee (director) / Hae-gon Kim (screenplay)
CAST: Hyeon-jun Shin …. Kim Jun
Eun-Kyung Shin …. Kang Su-jin
Yeong-ho Kim …. Lee, Tae-hyeon