A cop falls for a criminal in Korean romantic comedy “Steal my Heart” (a.k.a. “Catch Me”), written and directed by Lee Hyun Jong, who last stepped behind the camera for a segment of the omnibus “No Comment” way back in 2002. The film stars popular TV actor Joo Won (known for the likes of “Bridal Mask”, “Ojakgyo Brothers”, “Good Doctor” and other hit shows) as the male lead, pairing up with actress Kim Ah Joong (“Whatcha Wearin’”) as the two halves of an amusingly mismatched couple.
Set in Seoul, the film sees Joo as profiling expert Ho Tae, a cocky and rather vain fellow who’s convinced that he’s at the top of his game. One evening when staking out a suspect in a serial rape and murder case, he’s surprised when the man he’s tailing is mowed down in a hit and run road accident, and even more surprised when the driver turns out to be his long lost college love Jin Sook (Kim Ah Joong). Hoping to rekindle their romance, he decides not to hand her over to his colleagues, something he soon comes to regret when he finds out that she is actually the infamous cat burglar behind a recent series of high profile art thefts. With the jealous Detective Oh (Baek Do-bin, “I am the King”) hell-bent on uncovering his secret and wrecking his chances of promotion, Ho Tae tries to uncover the truth behind Jin Sook’s crimes as well as her reasons for dumping him a decade ago.
Most genre fans will have a pretty good idea what to expect with “Steal my Heart”, and anyone expecting alternating bouts of wackiness, romance and melodrama certainly won’t be far off the mark. Lee Hyun Jong clearly wasn’t aiming for anything new or shakeup of the time honoured “My Sassy Girl” formula, and the film is one which quite openly plays to its audience and attempts to tick all the usual boxes on the Korean rom com list. This is fair enough, and the film generally succeeds in achieving its modest aims, at least in part making up for what it lacks in originality with enthusiasm and a modicum of charm.
Some unnecessary flashbacks aside, the film is a brisk and cheerful affair, never lingering long on anything or pretending to be blessed with substance. The focus is mainly and cheerfully on slapstick gags, mostly at the expense of the beleaguered Ho Tae – who, it has to be said, doesn’t make for a particularly convincing profiling expert given some of the stupid decisions he makes and his marked tendency to fall over. Though not exactly witty or sharp, the script has enough laugh-inducing moments to keep the viewer amused and works well as a comedy of errors, Ho Tae’s increasingly daft antics and the ever escalating chaos making for a fun watch – just as well, since the plot itself makes very little, if any sense.
Joo Won and Kim Ah Joong are both on good form and while neither of their characters is exactly believable or well-written, they’re an appealing and likeable couple. Interestingly, Lee doesn’t seem overly bothered with the film’s romantic aspects, and though this might seem odd for a rom com, it’s somewhat refreshing, as it avoids at least some of the manipulative melodrama that marks other genre efforts. Lee is obviously only too aware that the audience will expect a happy ending, and there’s no real suspense attempted in terms of the question whether Ho Tae and Jin Sook will end up together. Though predictable and formulaic, this does give the film a certain pleasing honestly, and allows for more emphasis on the gags and silly set pieces.
While none of this is really likely to make “Steal my Heart” memorable or likely to find an audience beyond the usual rom com crowd, it’s one of the better genre outings of the last year. Unoriginal to a fault it might be, Lee Hyun Jong knows how to hit the right buttons, and fans of Joo Won or slapstick romance won’t be disappointed.
Hyun-Jong Lee (director) / Hyun-Jong Lee, Yeong-ah Yoo (screenplay)
CAST: Won Joo … Lee Ho-tae
Ah-jung Kim … Yoon Jin-sook
Do-bin Baek … Detective Oh
Tae-Gwang Hwang … Detective Lee