Sorry for the City (2009) Movie Review

Influential Hong Kong classic “Infernal Affairs” gets the Korean comedy treatment with “Sorry for the City” (also referred to as “City of Damnation”). The film marks the reunion of the popular stars and team behind the hits “My Boss, My Hero” and “My Boss, My Teacher”, with helmer Kim Dong Won bringing together Jung Jun Ho, Jung Woong In, and Jung Woon Taek for a potent mix of silliness and shootouts. With the whole undercover cop and criminal theme having been rather done to death of late, the idea of a spoof is certainly a welcome one, especially when in the hands of such proven genre performers.

This time around, Jung Jun Ho gets a role reversal, playing a stubborn traffic cop called Choong Dong who is sent undercover by his superiors to infiltrate the gang of crime boss Kwang Seob (Kim Sang Joong). At the same time, the crooks have a similar idea, sending lowly thug Joong Dae (Jung Woong In) to work his way up through the ranks of the police, mainly since he is the only one of his fellow to have allegedly attended university. Needless to say, things do not go to plan, with Choong Dong finding life with the mob a tough proposition under squad leader Park (Jung Woon Taek), and with Joong Dae risking the anger of his boss by spending most of his time romancing attractive fellow officer Cha (Han Go Eun, also in “Capital Scandal”).

Unsurprisingly, “Sorry for the City” is basically similar to “My Boss, My Hero”, with the same odd shifts of tone and scattershot mixture of thrills and laughs. The film is not exactly plot driven, with Choong Dong spending most of his days getting into trouble and Joong Dae having a fine old time drinking with Cha and getting comfortable in his new life. As such, the film basically meanders from comedic set piece to set piece, with the focus being firmly on the gags for the most part.

The “Infernal Affairs” style premise lends itself to comedy as much as it does to glowering and brooding, and the film is generally very amusing, with an incredibly high quotient of slapstick. Most of this revolves around poor Jung Woon Taek, who spends every single one of his scenes being hit in the crotch or having hot pizza thrown in his face (working in a rather shameless plug for Dominos Pizza in the process). However, Kim Sang Joong’s scenes are probably the funniest scenes, with his idiotic adultery and dealings with his hard nosed wife making for some great dry humour.

Of course, things do get more action packed and violent later in the proceedings, when the tone swings wildly into seriousness with a particularly harsh twist that comes as a genuine shock. After this, the whole cops versus robbers plot kicks in for the final act, with a number of exciting shoot outs and chase scenes. The finale itself is suitably macho and angst ridden, perhaps inevitably culminating in an “Infernal Affairs” style rooftop showdown, though even then director Kim can’t resist throwing in a few slapstick gags. Despite the film’s rather chaotic feel he generally manages to keep things tight, and his direction is energetic and stylish, with plenty of split screen work and freeze frames. This helps to keep things bright and breezy, though some of the more cutesy touches, such as SMS messages flashing up on screen are distractingly gratuitous.

Still, such silliness is very much in keeping with the overall wackiness of the film, and “Sorry for the City” is a fine piece of Korean action comedy. Managing to successfully lampoon its source material and to deliver enough laughs and thrills to entertain throughout, it stands as an enjoyable crowd-pleaser that should appeal to any fans of the form.

Kim Dong-weon (director) / Kim Dong-weon (screenplay)
CAST: Jeong Joon-ho, Jeong Woong-in, Jeong Woon-taek, Park Sang-min, Kim Sang-joong, Han Go-eun

Buy Sorry for the City on DVD