On paper, “Daisy” sounds like an Asian film fan’s dream come true, directed by “Infernal Affairs” co-helmer Andrew Lau and starring everybody’s favourite sassy girl, popular Korean actress Jeon Ji Hyun. Unfortunately, despite the talent involved, and the fact that the crew flew halfway around the world to shoot in Amsterdam , the film turns out to be a bit of a disappointment, being a clich’d romantic drama which wallows in misery and self importance.
The plot follows Hye Young (Jeon Ji Hyun), a rather naive Korean girl who lives in Amsterdam , spending her life working in her grandfather’s antique shop and doing portraits for tourists. One day, she begins receiving flowers at exactly the same time from a secret admirer, who she believes to be a mystery man from her past who once built her a nice little bridge. One day she meets Jeong Woo (Lee Seong Jae, also in “Holiday” and “Public Enemy”), who unbeknownst to her is actually an Interpol agent tracking Asian criminals in the Netherlands .
With Hye Young assuming that Jeong Woo is responsible for the flowers, the two fall very slowly into a chaste romantic relationship. However, it turns out that the man sending the flowers is actually Park Yi (Jung Woo Sung, from “Sad Movie” and “Musa”), an assassin working for a Chinese crime syndicate. Inevitably, the love triangle turns tragic and the two men end up facing off while poor Hye Young tries to work out which of the two is the love of her life.
Although “Daisy” is ostensibly a love story, it has the feel of a funeral, with a slow, sombre pace and a plot which piles on the misery. Half of the film’s running time is taken up with scenes of the characters staring longingly out of windows into the rain, with the silence broken only by bouts of self pitying narration. Director Lau seems to be under the impression that the film is a weighty Shakespearean tragedy, rather than yet another gloomy hitman love story. As such, the proceedings have a rather pretentious air, despite the fact that the plot is inherently predictable and based largely around glaring cliché borrowed liberally from the likes of “Fulltime Killer” and John Woo’s classic “The Killer”.
Almost every aspect of the film is riddled with angst, with the three lead characters suffering as if the weight of the world was on their shoulders, and steadfastly refusing to do anything to pursue their romantic inclinations. Park Yi in particular, as the kind of overly emotional, socially retarded assassin so beloved of modern cinema, is faintly ludicrous, from his blatant incompetence on the job to his hilarious attempts to discuss impressionist painting with Hye Young or his penchant for flower growing. This languid passivity does make the film’s central romance somewhat hard to swallow, and Lau’s attempts to evoke the feeling that it is fate which brings the characters together comes across more as shoddy coincidence.
Fans of Jeon Ji Hyun should note that her character is far closer to her role in the glum supernatural drama “The Uninvited” than “My Sassy Girl” or “Windstruck”, and while she tries her best to pull a few wacky faces here and there, her performance is certainly more subdued.
The film benefits from glossy production values, and Lau makes good use of the Amsterdam scenery, playing on the contrast between the grey, almost gothic beauty of the city and the innocent blue skies and flowery fields of the countryside. Unfortunately, he tends to overuse slow motion for some of the emotional scenes, which when coupled with some of the picture postcard visuals gives the film the feel at times of a perfume advert. There are a few scenes of surprisingly violent action, though these are few and far between, and whilst well staged, seem to have been thrown in as an afterthought and do little more than briefly raising the pulse.
Despite its flaws, “Daisy” makes for engaging viewing, and the story grips almost in spite of itself, mainly out of a morbid fascination to see not which of the men Hye Young will end up with, but to see who will lie dying in her arms. The self indulgent melodrama works well enough to tick all the right boxes for the genre, and the film functions perfectly well as an enjoyably glossy, weepy romance.
It is worth noting that the DVD features the director’s cut of the film, which for once indicates that it is substantially different from the theatrical version, which not only adds 25 minutes, but reorders some of the scenes, making the narrative less linear. Although this new version is perhaps too long, it is surely superior, as without these changes, the film would surely have been even more conventional and would have suffered from even murkier character development.
Wai Keung Lau (director) / Jae-young Kwak (screenplay)
CAST: Woo-sung Jung …. Park Yi
Sung-jae Lee …. Jeong Woo
David Chiang …. Cho
Ho-jin Jeon …. Detective Jang
Ji-hyun Jun …. Hye-young
Dion Lam …. Yun Joon-ha