he South Korean movie "Mr. Iron Palm" is an
undeniable Romantic Comedy, and as such its ending is inevitable from the
opening frame. We know, for instance, that Korean expatriate Iron Palm (In-Pyo
Cha) will have trouble convincing the love of his life, fellow expatriate Jini
(Yoon-jin Kim), to accept him back into her life after a 5 year absence; but we
also know that before the final credits role, she will have realized he's the
perfect man for her and cast off the jerk that has been vying for her
affections. Of course, the jerk is a rich guy with fancy clothes and cars, but
none of the humility and charm of our hero, thus the audience's insistence that
Jini dump the jerk for the hero, which she will of course do so they can kiss
in the end and everyone will live happily ever after. Get all that?
All of the above being said, "Mr. Iron Palm" is a
very funny comedy from beginning to end, which immediately puts it heads above
its brethrens. There are a number of funny scenes, like when the improbably
named Admiral (Charles Chun), the third person in the love triangle, takes out
his frustration on his employees by ripping up the clothes they had just sewn.
Very funny stuff, especially when Admiral encounters a pair of jeans that he
can't tear and resorts to other measures to destroy them, none of which works.
You see, the employees are so used to having their clothes being ripped by their
ill-tempered boss that they've made the clothes super tough!
There is also a running gag about Iron Palm's method of martial arts training: by shoving his hands into a steaming rice cooker (a
device that he guards like a precious jewel) in order to harden his hands. You
see, Iron Palm fancies himself a martial artist, even though he's not much of a
fighter. In one scene, Iron Palm takes on a Tae Kwon Do instructor in a bid to
become gainfully employed, only to be unceremoniously defeated. In another
easily beaten by a group of teenagers not old enough to shave.
Yoon-jin Kim plays the love interest, the woman in the
middle of Iron Palm and Admiral. Kim only needs to be two things: sympathetic
and pretty. She manages both well enough, although she's prettier than she is
sympathetic, but who cares when she ends up making the "right" choice
(at least to the audience) by the end of the film? Even though Kim's role is
limited, I liked that Jini was not drowning in sugar, and actually had an edge
to her. She's a little selfish and more than a little ambitious, and Iron Palm's
feelings definitely ranks lower than her own.
And what would a Romantic Comedy be without sidekicks? Jini
has Gloria and Iron Palm has Dong-seo. Admiral, of course, has no comedic
sidekick because, as we all know, villains in Romantic Comedies don't need
sidekicks. Luckily for writer/director Sang-ho Yuk he's cast the right actor in
Charles Chun, who is just perfect as the jerk boyfriend who has everything.
Admiral doesn't really love Jini, he just wants her more now because Iron Palm
is also after her. As he confesses after Jini has an accident and ends up in the
hospital with a cast on her leg, he'd rather see her dead than be with Iron
Palm. Not a very nice guy, and Chun plays it just right.
For a South Korean production, it's surprising that
"Mr. Iron Palm" is shot entirely in the States, and the majority of
its dialogue is in English. Subtitles are not necessary and Chun's Admiral
speaks completely in English (the character is Americanized and doesn't speak
Korean). The look of the film and the camerawork are pluses, and I'm shocked to
find that the cinematographer is Philip Lee, the man behind the shockingly bad
Glad to see the improvement, Mister Lee.
"Mr. Iron Palm" is nothing new, but it's
certainly better than what I expected. The comedy is quite good and I laughed
for much of the film. There were no language barriers to interfere with the
jokes, a problem I've had with many South Korean comedies. The English dialogue
is sometimes too stilted, reminding me that a non-American wrote them. But other
than that, "Mr. Iron Palm" is mostly funny and charming, and better
than expected. What more could you ask for in your Romantic Comedies?