I have a very unusual love-hate relationship with movies that tackle the trials and tribulations associated with growing old. Although I’m not necessarily worried about what my life will be like when I’m wrinkled, senile, and clinically demented, I don’t like to spend a lot of time watching motion pictures that dwell on such depressing topics. Facing one’s own mortality is never a pleasant experience, especially when you’re still several decades away from drawing Social Security and taking full advantage of the Senior Citizens discount at McDonald’s. Ironically, I am a pretty big fan of of such “Steel Magnolias”, “Grumpy Old Men”, and “The Golden Girls”. Feel free to make of that what you will.
Writer/director Kang Hyo-jin’s clever heist comedy “Revolver Gangsters’ Gang” (aka “Twilight Gangsters”) is a remake of Lars Buchel’s “Now or Never”, a German film about three older women who decide to rob a bank in order to give their dying friend the final holiday they feel she deserves. Although the film is ultimately a sly mediation on how society treats its elderly population, the story still manages to instigate quite a few chuckles along the way. It’s warm and kind-hearted without feeling melodramatic or convoluted, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Unfortunately, this journey is by now means a flawless affair, and often requires the audience to accept a number of highly illogical and impossibly improbable scenarios as normal, everyday occurrences. As such, suspending disbelief is a must.
Kim Hye Ok, Na Moon Hee, and Kim Soo Mi star as the titular bandits, three elderly working-class women who feel as if society has left them no recourse but to take what they feel is rightfully theirs. After their vacation fund is stolen by a group of bumbling criminals during a daylight bank robbery, these three tenacious ladies set out on a valiant albeit dangerous mission to locate the men responsible for derailing their trip to Hawaii. They soon meet up with one of the culprits, who reluctantly reveals that his partner-in-crime has made off with the entire haul. Angry, bitter, and eager to walk the sunny beaches of Waikiki, these life-long friends convince their captive to teach them the delicate art of bank robbery. Once satisfied that everything is in place, the women embark on a mission to reclaim the cash.
It’s pretty easy to figure out where “Revolver Gangsters’ Gang” is going, even before one of its central characters suddenly announces a plot development which kicks the caper into high gear. It’s not that the story is cliche, but it definitely follows a well-worn cinematic path that most of us have been down several times before. Kang Hyo-jin deftly manages to keep the tone fair and balanced, that is, until the final depressing fifteen minutes of the picture. And while I had grown quite fond of these head-strong women over the course of the feature, the film’s manipulative finale didn’t evoke the emotional response I had expected. Of course, it’s hard to shed a tear when you know precisely what’s going to happen long before that tear-jerking scene plays out on-screen.
Regardless of the film’s inherent predictability, it’s still a blast to watch. Kim Hye Ok, Na Moon Hee, and Kim Soo Mi are always a treat, even when their cornball “Golden Girls rob a bank” shtick threatens to overpower the rest of the narrative. It’s heart is always in the right place, which helps soothe the picture’s irritatingly goofier moments. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when your characters are likable, well-developed, and sympathetic. Had these ladies been annoying, abrasive, and needlessly foul-mouthed, I seriously doubt the film would have been nearly as effective and enjoyable. Good writing, strong characters, and a little warmth goes a long way, especially when you’re dealing with this sort of silly, over-the-top scenario. I shudder to think what this thing would have looked like had it been produced in the States.
Despite its status as a gimmicky heist movie featuring senior citizens as would-be bank robbers, “Revolver Gangsters’ Gang” is surprisingly strong and oddly heartfelt, not to mention thoroughly entertaining. There are, however, several bumps and bruises along the way — the ill-conceived motorcycle escape sequence being the ugliest and most abrasive — though these complaints are actually quite inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The picture isn’t meant to viewed in a very serious manner, even when it takes the occasional detour into ridiculous melodrama. It may not be the strongest heist flick you’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly a hell of a lot of fun.
Kang Hyo-jin (director), Kang Hyo-jin (screenplay)
CAST: Na Moon Hee … Jung Ja
Kim Soo Mi … Young Hee
Kim Hye Ok … Shin Ja