It was inevitable that a sequel to the wildly popular “My Wife is a Gangster” would show up sooner or later. Two years after the original, the sequel has arrived, returning star Eun-Kyung Shin into the lead role of gangster boss Eun-jin, who leads the fearsome scissor gang, called such because of their propensity for using scissors as weapons. As the film opens, a battle on the roof of a high rise ends badly for Eun-jin, who falls off the building in shades of “Matrix: Reloaded” and lands in the back of a truck carrying chickens. The result? Movie Amnesia.
Fast-forward to two years later, and Eun-jin is now doing deliveries for a small-town restaurant, oblivious to her past as a gang boss. Eun-jin works for the restaurant’s owner and single dad Jae-cheol (Jun Gyu Park), who is having a hell of a time raising his troubled teen daughter. Although Eun-jin retains her fighting skills, her attempts to discover her past have proved fruitless. But her past, and trouble, arrives in town along with a gangster determined to turn Jae-cheol’s restaurant, and other small businesses in the neighborhood, into a mall complex rather the owners want to sell or not.
Played mostly for laughs, “Gangster 2” is parts slapstick and parts Asian melodrama. When it wants to be funny, the film takes nothing seriously, providing (and attempting to get) laughs from every conceivable avenue. Unfortunately most of the gags are really stale, and the casual viewer will see them coming a mile away. The Asian melodrama continues the Asian Filmmakers Curse, which seems to inflict the entire continent or thereabouts. In-between the slapstick, there are some mature subjects, such as the daughter’s troubles with a local girl gang, and a pregnant woman being beaten during a bank robbery.
The original “My Wife is a Gangster” had to endure a similar balance of comedy and drama, but it seemed more concern with striking that balance rather than going full-tilt in one direction, only to quickly switch over to the other when the mood strikes. “Gangster 2” reeks of over-indulgence to the fine arts of lame comedy; this is most obvious by the parade of oddball characters, all of whom should have “Odious Comic Relief” written on their foreheads by law, so people can properly snicker at their obviousness.
If there’s one thing “Gangster 2” has going for it, it’s the return of Eun-Kyung Shin, last seen slumming it in the big-budget blahfest “Blue”. Despite having risen to stardom with the original, it’s amazing that Shin has found so little good material to work with. Besides the “Gangster” films, Shin has done the below average “This is Law”, where she had what amounts to a throwaway role; and then there was a romantic comedy called “A Perfect Match”. It’s good to see Shin back in her most famous role, and her comfort level with the character is easily apparent in her portrayal.
Unfortunately Jun Gyu Park (“My Boss, My Hero”) really doesn’t acquit himself well. His character is mostly there to fill up the background and to occasionally attempt to rape Eun-jin while she’s asleep. I kid you not. In an early scene, Jae-cheol recounts for us how he attempted to hog-tie Eun-jin to the bed as she sleeps so he can have his way with her. Somehow we’re supposed to find this charming. As expected, the film closes with a gang fight where Eun-jin is required to get severely beaten up, thus filling the filmmaker’s quota for injecting unwarranted melodrama for the sake of having melodrama.
Those who’ve seen the original may wonder what happened to Eun-jin’s husband, whom she arranged to marry in order to please her dying sister, and who was at her side at the end of that film, firmly entrenched in the gang life. While the movie does make mention of Eun-jin’s previous marriage, it never mentions him by name, or where he’s gone since. I guess they got divorced or something. So really, Eun-jin is still a “gangster” in the sequel, but she’s not really a “wife” anymore.
Although it’s definitely not as funny or as effective as the first, the sequel nevertheless has some laughs. To its credit, the gags fly so fast and furious that one or more will usually stick. It’s not the best of ratios, but there is success to point to, I suppose. As mentioned, a lot of the jokes are very transparent, and some fall flat because there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of effort put into them. The Odious Comic Relief characters get to be a bit much, and it’s amazing how unfunny they are sometimes, especially when it’s obvious they’re trying darn hard to be “funny”.
In the end, what counts is that “My Wife is a Gangster 2” still has Eun-Kyung Shin, and she’s still the sexiest, coolest, and greatest wife a guy can have — even if she can kick your ass ten ways to Sunday if she so chooses. Just remember: hide the scissors!
Heung-sun Jeong (director) / Hae-cheol Choi, Heung-sun Jeong (screenplay)
CAST: Eun-Kyung Shin …. Cha Eun-jin
Jun Gyu Park …. Yun Jae-cheol
Se-jin Jang …. Baek Sang-eo
Won-jong Lee …. Yeo Sa-rang
Mi-lyeong Jo …. Geum Eun-bang