Every once in a while, a film comes along with a premise that is simply astounding in its brilliance. The Korean “Vampire Cop Ricky”, which follows a useless, corrupt policeman who turns into a vampire whenever he gets an erection, is one such film. Amazingly, director Lee Si Myung (also responsible for “2009: Lost Memories”) takes the bold approach of treating the concept half seriously, attempting to mix together a dizzying range of genres. Even more amazingly, this brave move pays off, and the film somehow manages to straddle the fine line between genius and insanity in a way which results in nothing less than a modern classic.
The film begins with a ludicrous prologue set in Transylvania , where a Euro-vamp stereotype is bitten by a mosquito (which sends him into an amusingly over the top fit of howling rage), which flies to Korea with the help of a passing plane. Here, the mosquito bites useless and corrupt policeman Na Do Yeol (played by Kim Su Ro, also in “Taegukgi”), who finds himself turning into a vampire whenever his strongest emotions are aroused — in this case, his libido. As well as trying to come to terms with his new powers with help from a Lam Ching Ying (“Mr. Vampire”) style priest, Na finds his past misdeeds coming back to haunt him, threatening the lives of his friends and would-be girlfriend, and pushing him to clean up his act and follow the path of the righteous.
The film is simply hilarious throughout, with some classic scenes such as those which feature Na on the run from a gang of thugs, desperately watching pornography on a mini DVD player in the hope of inspiring a return of his powers. This gives a pretty good idea of the comedic tone throughout, though surprisingly the film features very little in the way of sleaze, and actually has a fairly moralistic heart. It is of course worth noting that the subtitles never refer to either the main character, or indeed anyone in the film as Ricky, which nicely sums up the cavalier and cheerfully lunatic feel to the proceedings.
The film’s true strength lies in Lee’s skill at combining genres, as although on paper the mixture of fraternalistic police thriller, horror, sex comedy and romance may be quite inconceivable, Lee actually manages to pull all these seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive and highly engaging whole, which emerges as what is perhaps best described as a perverted take on “Batman Begins”. Wisely, Lee keeps things briskly moving, with plenty of action and laughs, never allowing the viewer to stop and consider just how ridiculous the film really is.
Unlikely as it may sound, the viewer does come to care for Na, and his redemptive journey is played out in the best Shaw Brothers fashion, and feels genuine and heartfelt. This is mainly due to star Kim Su Ro, who turns in a great performance which is part wacky face pulling and part tortured emotion, and which comes complete with Bruce Lee style squeals and the shouting of English language slogans during the frequent martial arts sequences. Of course, it is hard to forget that he is a guy who turns into a vampire when sexually aroused, but strangely enough, this never gets in the way of the film’s dramatic elements, which actually makes the gag premise even funnier.
Indeed, it is the very fact that the film is played half for laughs, and half with a straight face and earnest heart that marks it as a classic. Whether enjoyed as an absurd comedy or mixed bag of thrills, “Vampire Cop Ricky” stands as one of the most entertaining films of the last few years, and hopefully one which will find its niche as a genuine cult item.
Si-myung Lee (director)
CAST: Ho-jin Jeon …. Inspector Kang
Yeo-Jeong Jo …. Yeong-hee
Su-ro Kim …. Ricky
Kwang-rok Oh …. Vampire Hunter
Byung-ho Son …. Tak Mun-su