Korean cinema loves a good caper, and with “Over My Dead Body”, audiences get just that, as a wacky cast of oddballs try to get their hands on the corpse of a cheating company president who has a valuable microchip secreted under his skin. The complex comedy was written and directed by first-timer Woo Sun Ho, and was apparently inspired by a random thought at his grandfather’s funeral as to what would happen if the body disappeared. Fittingly, the film has an eccentric cast, headlined by the trio of popular stars Lee Beom Soo (“The Righteous Thief”), Ryu Seung Bum (“The Unjust”) and actress Kim Ok Bin (awesome in Park Chan Wook’s “Thirst” and here sporting a punkish pink hairdo), and proved surprisingly popular at the Korean box office, beating off competition from several other more high profile releases.
The pandemonium begins with lab researcher Hyun Chul (Lee Beom Soo) joining in a protest against the crooked president of the biotech company he works for, who is faking illness in an attempt to smuggle a valuable microchip out of the country. After one of his colleagues is run over and ends up in hospital with spiralling bills, Hyun Chul teams with his daughter Dong Hwa (Kim Ok Bin) to try and come up with the money. When they see on television that the company president has died of an apparent heart attack, they come up with a scheme to snatch his body and hold it to ransom, not knowing that the microchip has been sown into his skin. Unfortunately for them, they grab the wrong body, a shady and very much alive conman called Jin Oh (Ryu Seung Bum), who joins them as just one of the many people trying to track down the corpse.
This description really only scratches the surface of “Over My Dead Body”, as there’s a huge amount going on, Woo Sun Ho also working in corporate conspiracies, undercover cops, violent loan sharks and more. The film rushes along at a dizzying, breathless pace, going flat out as he throws in a variety of twists, betrayals and revelations, keeping the viewer guessing as to who will end up with the body and the chip, with a few genuine surprises up its sneaky sleeve. Although it’s debatable whether the film is clever or creatively deceptive, it’s certainly well-constructed, and Woo turns in a solid script which successfully keeps most of its balls in the air until the enjoyable conclusion.
It helps that the script is also pretty funny, giving the film a kind of manic charm and stopping it from ever becoming an exercise in random, over plotted silliness. Having previously won the Comedy Award at the 4th Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival for his earlier “My Really Big Mike”, Woo does prove himself adept at getting the laughs, mixing satire and slapstick to good effect as the film uses its increasing absurdity to poke at the corrupt capitalism of modern Korea while championing its everyman rascal protagonists. Though it’s fair to say that the film isn’t quite up to the standard of the genre bending Jang Jin, it’s still very accomplished in this respect, and most of its occasionally dark gags hit home in terms of both humour and social commentary, without ever being too heavy handed or preachy. The film clearly enjoyed a reasonably high budget, and features a number of creative large scale action set pieces and a variety of chaotic chase scenes, which Woo handles well and uses to add to the overall air of breathlessness.
Thankfully, the film’s shenanigans are anchored by the three leads, all of whom are on likeable and charismatic form. Lee Beom Soo has the most grounded and sensible role of the three, Hyun Chul essentially being a decent and sensible man, and as an result there’s a great deal of merriment to be had watching how he reacts to an impossible situation spiralling increasing out of his control. Kim Ok Bin is similarly effective, looking arresting with her pink hair and making Dong Hwa far more than a comedy foil or cute quirky sidekick type. It’s Ryu Seung Bum who steals the show, however, with most of the best lines and daftest, most conniving behaviour, Woo giving him full reign to blunder around and revel in the bedlam.
“Over My Dead Body” is definitely a lot of fun, and should be very entertaining for any viewers looking for fast moving hijinks mixed with satire and madcap comedy. Woo Sun Ho does well with his opening feature, proving himself a talent worth keeping an eye on in the future, and the lead trio of Lee Beom Soo, Ryu Seung Bum and Kim Ok Bin all do their bit in making the film well worth the price of admission.
Seon-ho Wu (director) / Seon-ho Wu (screenplay)
CAST: Beom-su Lee … Baek Hyeon-cheol
Seung-beom Ryu … Ahn Jin-oh
Ok-bin Kim … Han Dong-hwa
Chang-Seok Ko … Seong-goo
Da-in Yoo … Jang Ha-yeon