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The “Marrying the Mafia” series has proved one of the most enduring and popular in Korean cinema, now reaching its fifth instalment and marking its tenth anniversary with “Return of the Family”. This fourth sequel to the original 2002 record-smashing blockbuster appropriately enough goes back to the roots of the franchise, and while the middle three entries followed another mob family, as the title suggests the film again focuses on the Jangs. Directed by Jeong Yong Ki and written and produced by Jung Tae Wong, who previously teamed on the second and third in the series, the film manages to bring back the original cast, including Jung Joon Ho (“My Boss, My Hero”), Yoo Dong Geun (“Sunday Punch”), Sung Dong Il (“The Grand Heist”) and Park Keun Hyung (“Lady President”). The film also bolsters its roster with a number of fresh faces, with various pop idols making their debuts including Yoon Doo Jun of BEAST, Hwang Kwang Hee of ZE:A and Son Na Eun of APink.
The film picks up ten years since we last saw the Jangs, with the Three Js (Yoo Dong Geun, Sung Dong Il and Park Keun Hyung) having left their gangster lives behind and now running a successful architectural and construction company with brother in law Park Dae Seo (Jung Joon Ho). Despite their best efforts to go straight and to fit in with normal society, the past comes back to haunt them, with other gangsters after their old turf and seemingly trying to goad them into another mob war. The troubles also affect the family’s younger generation, with Jang Young Min (Yoon Doo Jun) running into bullies at school as he tries to woo classmate He Jae (Son Na Eun).
The first question here is whether or not “Marrying the Mafia 5” has much to offer newcomers to the series, and the answer to this is: not too much. Whilst this isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have enough entertainment value in general, the fact is that it plays firmly to the fans and to those already familiar with the characters, their pasts and their various relationships. However, though writer Jung Taw Wong and director Jeong Yong Ki make few concessions to the uninitiated, the film definitely benefits from not working in the flashbacks and expositionary scenes that might have been expected, and it gets down to business quickly and efficiently. The film certainly plays to its strengths, showing a good knowledge of what made the original so popular, and indeed what made the Jangs such enjoyable protagonists. After being away for three instalments, a lot of fans will certainly be glad to see them back, and the ten year gap works very much in the film’s favour, giving it the feel of revisiting old friends and seeing how they’ve been getting on with their lives.
With familiarity being the film’s main hook, the other question is whether “Marrying the Mafia 5” has anything new to offer, or whether it’s simply a rehashing of ten year old material. Thankfully, as a continuation or sequel, the film genuinely seems to be moving its characters on somewhat, and though the whole gangsters going straight routine is obviously nothing new and seems a bit laboured at times, it’s fun to see the Jangs struggling for respectability in the business world.
The cast having aged helps in this regard, as does the fact that the stars are all on likeable form, slipping comfortably back into their popular roles, and Jung and Jeong clearly have a good grasp on their various dynamics, with lots of amusing interplay, banter and gags helping to keep things light throughout. The new additions give things a bit of a boost too, with Park’s new love interest Hyo Jung (Kim Min Jung, “Forbidden Quest”) fitting in well, and the various pop idols at least never feeling too much like they had been shoe-horned in to try push the film to reach a younger audience.
“Marrying the Mafia 5” should definitely go down well with fans of the series, and wins points for not taking the easy route of just serving up more of the same. The return of the Jangs is a welcome one, and though the film probably won’t mean much to anyone unfamiliar with the earlier series entries, it’s kind of nice to see the franchise successfully managing to find a way to continue after all these years without forced reinvention or rebooting.
Yong-ki Jeong (director)
CAST: Doojoon … Jang Young-Min
Yûko Fueki … Dae-Seo’s Secretary
Kwang-Hee Hwang … Choi Gyu-Chul
Jun-ho Jeong … Park Dae-Seo
Park Keun-Hyeong … Jang Jung-Jong
Min-jung Kim … Hyo-Jung