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Korean director Kim Ho Jun, still best known for his controversial 2005 teen pregnancy romantic drama “Jenny, Juno”, returns with something a bit more straightforward in the form of the madcap comedy “Sooni, Where are You?”. The film is a wacky affair following a roguish bunch of characters all trying to get their greedy hands on the fabulous titular diamond, with a cast headlined by Park Hae Mi (“Personal Taste”), Lee Tae Sung, (“26 Years Diary”), and Shin Ee, (“Sex is Zero”).
The film follows Sarah (Park Hae Mi), a debt ridden, middle aged drinks stall owner who lives with her ungrateful daughter in law Ra Mi (Shin Ee), who she deeply resents for having married her son Kwang Soo (Lee Tae Sung), despite his being a decidedly less than perfect catch. Kwang Soo hatches a plan snatch Sooni, a huge diamond worth five billion won, from right under the nose of the mob boss who hired him and his partner to steal it in the first place. Unfortunately, things don’t go to plan, and after his partner is killed, he gives himself up to the police, hoping for protection, with the diamond itself going missing. As the gangsters put the squeeze on the two ladies, they form a reluctant alliance in the hope of nabbing the jewel for themselves and putting an end to their money worries. Needless to say, their schemes only serve to land them in hot water, and they find themselves on the run, pursued by the gang and a persistent though incompetent loan shark.
“Sooni, Where are You?” is an old fashioned caper, and is none the worse for it. Although the plot could be politely described as meandering and tangential, Kim Ho Jun manages an affable air of nonsense that fits well with the film’s modest ambitions. Certainly, there’s nothing particularly original here, and though the script does attempt a few surprises along the way, there’s never really too much question as to whether the two ladies will manage to survive. This doesn’t make the film any less fun, and watching them go through their various schemes, which range from grave robbing to kidnapping, with plenty of bickering in between. The film never takes itself too seriously, and as a result even at its most unfocused and bizarrely anecdotal, its still mildly engaging and is never grating or too over the top.
A large part of this is due to Kim’s own fairly laid back approach, which neither puts too much emphasis on either gags or drama of any sort, being largely content to throw together set pieces of various sorts and to let things develop at their own speed. The film is frequently quite funny, and though there are a few touches of slapstick here and there, the humour generally stems from the odd behaviour of the characters, most of who though thinly sketched are at least amusing. Both Park Hae Mi and Shin Ee are good value in the lead roles, and their constant sniping at each other and attempts at getting one step ahead are comical in suitably snarky fashion. This does give the film quite a sharp feel, and some of its few scenes of character development definitely benefit from having a somewhat cynical edge to them. As a result, though it’s unlikely that too many viewers will end up really caring about what happens to the two women or indeed who will end up with the diamond, the film does hold the interest through having a good variety of ongoing shenanigans.
This sums up “Sooni, Where are You?” quite neatly, as although essentially pretty forgettable, it’s a perfectly convivial distraction that’s fun while it lasts. Largely as a result of its loose, modest feel, it actually offers laughs and amusingly daft setups than other similarly themed efforts that make the mistake of trying too hard, and should certainly be enjoyed by anyone wanting to watch the likeable lead actresses squabbling with each other for an hour and a half or so.
Kim Ho-joon (director)
CAST: Park Hae-mi