Popular Korean actor Lim Chang Jung, probably still best known for his hilariously undignified role in “Sex is Zero”, returns with more comedy in the form of “Shotgun Love”. As its title suggests, the film is a rom-com, though one with an interesting twist in that it sees him as an unfortunate man who is suckered into believing that he is the father of actress Kim Gyu Ri’s (“Portrait of a Beauty”) child. Written and directed by first time helmer Rain Jung, the film has a game supporting cast including Kim Tae Hyun (“Detective K”) as her uncaring boyfriend, with Lee Ah Rin (“Little Black Dress”), Park Min Hwan and Kim Soo Mi (“Suicide Forecast”) providing added comic relief as the central couple’s ragtag group of oddball friends.
Lim Chang Jung takes on what by now is a pretty familiar role for him, playing a bumbling home shopping channel extra called Sang Yeol who harbours a clumsy and unrequited love for his onscreen wife, the gorgeous So Yeon (Kim Gyu Ri). Things seem to be going his way after they appear to have a drunken one night stand, after which she informs him that she’s pregnant, pushing the only too happy man to marry her. Sadly, unbeknownst to Sang Yeol, the child is actually her TV producer boyfriend’s, who tried to get her to have an abortion. Inevitably, So Yeon finds herself falling for the kind hearted buffoon despite her cold hearted deception, and as the birth date approaches, her secret becomes increasingly hard to keep.
“Shotgun Love” certainly benefits from having a much stronger premise than most other recent Korean romantic comedies, having good scope for drama as well as laughter. Rain Jung uses the concept well, doing a capable job of balancing seriousness and silliness, and the fact that the viewer is always very aware that it’s only a matter of time before Sang Yeol finds out the painful truth makes for a fair amount of tension as well as justifying the expected last act dive into tears. The film does get surprisingly harsh in places, never shying away from the fact that So Yeon’s scheme is a pretty horrible one and she spends most of the running time treating her erstwhile beau rather cruelly. This does make for a reasonable amount of character development, and as a result the relationship between the two feels pleasingly genuine when it needs to, and the film is all the better for not quite being a straightforward romance in the usual generic sense.
At the same time, Rain piles on some very funny scenes, most of which revolve around Sang Yeol being amusingly slow on the uptake, despite a long series of very obvious signs and hints. The supporting cast make for a suitably wacky bunch, and in this respect the film really pushes the boat out, which a fairly insane though weirdly heart warming subplot involving a transvestite couple. Although these provide the best gags, the film also has an admittedly effective line in lowbrow toilet humour, with plenty of slapstick and a strange series of jokes revolving around constipation and overflowing toilets.
Unsurprisingly, the film is basically the Lim Chang Jung show, with the actor being in pretty much every scene, and turning in his usual likeable performance, mixing everyman sensibilities a willingness to make a fool of himself on demand. The film does give him the chance to play a slightly different character this time around, as he is more of an innocent than a sex mad type, and it’s very hard not to feel sorry for him. Kim Gyu Ri also does a great job, and manages to make her harridan vaguely sympathetic.
This helps to make “Shotgun Love” a pretty straightforward recommendation for fans of the stars, being unlikely to disappoint anyone who enjoys the works Lim Chang Jung. At the same time, it receives a considerable lift from its above average plot and script, and is definitely one of the more enjoyable Korean comedies of the year so far.
Rain Jung (director) / Rain Jung (screenplay)
CAST: Chang Jung Lim … Sang-Yeol
Gyu-ri Kim … So-yeon
Tae-Hoon Kim … Producer Park
Min-Hwan Park … Myeong-bu
Jin-soo Kim … Veronica
Arin Lee … Myeong-sook