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Despite its gloomy title, “Suicide Forecast” is a Korean comedy headlined by popular actor Ryoo Seung Bum (recently in his brother Ryoo Seung Wan’s awesome “The Unjust”), revolving around him as an insurance salesman trying to keep his clients alive. Marking the debut of director Jo Jin Mo, the film uses its oddball premise to humanistic effect, with a supporting cast that includes Sung Dong Il (“Foxy Festival”), Seo Ji Hye (“Voice”), singer Younha (who unsurprisingly contributes a few musical numbers and flashes of guitar strumming), Park Cheol Min (“Miss Me, Kill Me”), Kim Soo Mi (“Shotgun Love”), Jung Sung Kyung (“City of Fathers”), and television star Im Ju Hwan, making his last screen appearance before entering military service.
Ryoo Seung Bumn takes on the role of former baseball player turned pushy insurance salesman Byung Woo, who begins the film on the verge of a major promotion. Unfortunately for him, a client kills himself, leading to a police investigation which threatens to uncover the fact that he had on several occasions in the past sold life insurance to suicide risks to boost his numbers. With his career on the line, Byung Woo frantically tries to locate his clients in an effort to get them to change their polices so that he can cover his tracks. This doesn’t turn out to be as straightforward as he had hoped, and he soon finds himself getting unwillingly dragged into the lives of a bereaved husband (Park Cheol Min), a singer who is heavily in debt and living in a caravan with her younger brother (Younha), a homeless young man with tourettes syndrome (Im Ju Hwan), and a widowed mother struggling with a brood of children (Jung Sun Kyung).
For a film with such a wacky and colourful DVD cover, “Suicide Forecast” certainly starts off on a sombre note, with the quite shocking death of one of Byung Woo’s clients. Thankfully, the film soon finds its rhythm as an old fashioned screwball farce, as the initially hard hearted salesman picks up life lessons while rushing around and inadvertently helping people. With his redemptive journey from money oriented and materialistic cad to caring and sharing nice guy being imminently predictable, director Jo wisely puts most of the film’s focus on its various subplots and on the unfortunate characters he ends up involved with. On this score the film works pretty well, never overdoing the tragedy and managing to deal with the plight of those at the lower end of the economic spectrum and having to deal with hardship in getting through their lives in believable and grounded fashion.
The film does have a humanistic streak with a strong sense of social justice, and wears its heart on its sleeve throughout, something which definitely helps to make its many melodramatic moments more palatable. Through this, although not exactly a deep film, it does cover some reasonably interesting moral ground and confronts a few difficult issues along the way to its predictable though honest conclusion, never throwing in too many easy answers or trite solutions, either for Byung Woo or his clients.
Jo balances the film’s more worthy aspects with a healthy dose of comedy, most of which comes from laughs at the increasing complexity of Byung Woo’s situation, with everything coming to a head at once as the poor man dashes around the city trying to juggle his many charges. This inevitably results in a series of amusing misunderstandings, though the film is congenial rather than overly reliant on cheap slapstick. Ryoo Seung Bumn does a good, likeable job in the lead role, and although his change of heart is clearly signposted from the very start, he makes for a decent and sympathetic enough protagonist. The rest of the cast are all agreeable enough, with Jo making an effort to flesh them out beyond their immediate sob stories, and this helps to ensure that the film remains interesting throughout despite its basic lack of originality.
“Suicide Forecast” certainly makes for very amiable viewing, and although it never really challenges or shows too much ambition, it ticks all the right boxes and delivers some effective laughs and heart warming drama. Boosted by a solid cast and some pleasingly grounded handling from Jo Jin Mo, it should be enjoyed by fans of Ryoo Seung Bum or of Korean comedy in general.
Jin-mo Jo (director) / Seong-hyeob Yu (screenplay)
CAST: Seung-beom Ryu … Bae Byeong-woo
Dong-il Song … Manager Park Jin-seok
Cheol-min Park … Oh Sang-yeol
Seon-kyeong Jeong … Choi Bok-soon
Ji-hye Seo … Lee Hye-in
Im Joo-Hwan … Kim Yeong-tak
Younha … Ahn So-yeon