“Mission Possible: Kidnapping Granny K” is the latest outing from Korean director Kim Sang Jin, known for the hits “Attack the Gas Station!”, “Kick the Moon” and “Jail Breakers”. Here he again sticks to what he does best with another wild comedy, though this time with a somewhat older protagonist than he has dealt with in the past.
After a set zany cartoon credits indicate that a caper is afoot the film gets off to a quick start as hard working restaurant chain owner Granny K (veteran actress Na Moon Hee, recently in “Cruel Winter Blues” and “Crying Fist”) is grabbed by a trio of useless kidnappers wearing oversize animal masks (played by Yoo Hae Jin, Kang Sung Jin and Yoo Gun). Almost immediately she starts mothering the goons, then actively making suggestions, and it comes as no surprise when she starts leading them, clearly with a scheme of her own in mind. This is obviously for the best as the three are arch bunglers of he highest order, clearly with no real plan of their own or indeed any idea of how to stay one step ahead of the police. Hiding out at the house of one of Granny’s extended family, a bizarre super strong giant woman, the kidnappers issue their ransom demand, which the cunning old woman ups from 50 million won to a massive 50 billion won, sending her own ungrateful and greedy offspring into a panic and the media into a frenzy.
“Mission Possible” is amusing right from the start and keeps the comedy coming throughout, mostly in the form of good old-fashioned slapstick and pratfalls. Na Moon Hee certainly seems to have a lot of fun in the role of the feisty granny, and her amusing performance nicely anchors the film. The three male leads are similarly effective and though they are each clearly a few bricks short of a wall, they are all decent fellows at heart and the viewer comes not only to laugh at their daft antics, but also to hope that they will somehow elude capture.
Kim has proved himself to be an eclectic director in the past, and although the film is a pretty broad slice of popcorn entertainment, he still manages to keep things slightly offbeat and works in plenty of action and even some romance amongst the laughs. Although not exactly tense, the film does become somewhat taught as the police draw closer, entering into a cat and mouse game with Granny and the kidnappers, enough so to keep the viewer engaged and guessing as to the outcome. There are a good few set pieces, most of which are cleverly constructed and thrilling, helping to keep the film moving along at a brisk and bouncy pace.
Where the film really works better than the vast majority of other Korean comedies is in that although director Kim tosses in a few life lessons regarding parents and their children, and a general lamentation over the importance of money, he does not do so in a heavy handed or particularly intrusive fashion. Similarly, instead of the usual last act tonal shift and dive into melodrama the film if anything actually picks up speed and ventures into thriller territory with a “Mission Impossible” style train heist. This is not to say that the film does not have an emotional core, rather that it is established early on, as Kim makes it clear that the three stooges each have their reason for the kidnapping instead of being simple criminals looking to make a big score.
As such the film is consistently and subtly moral throughout, whereas other similar efforts have tended to pack in guilt free laughs for their first two thirds before suddenly expecting the viewer to take things seriously. The importance of this cannot be overstated, as it gives the film a huge lift, allowing it to come to a natural conclusion without sacrificing any of its momentum, remaining exciting and engaging right through to the end. Of course, there is still a dash of sentiment, though it is handled maturely and with dignity, and as such is hard won and all the more effective for it.
As a result, “Mission Possible” is not only highly entertaining, but also coherent and stands as a superior example of commercial Korean film making. Like all effective caper comedies, it works as a great cinematic balancing act which mixes in thrills and a well crafted plot along with the laughs, and as such it should appeal to viewers of all persuasions, and indeed generations.
Kim Sang-jin (director) / Lee In (screenplay)
CAST: Nah Moon-hee, Kang Seong-jin, Yoo Hae-jin, Yoo Geon, Park Sang-myeon, Park Joon-myeon