Guns & Talks (2001)
Main cast: Shin Hyeon-jun (Sang-yeon), Shin Ha-kyun (Jung-woo), Won Bin (Ha-yeon), Jeong Jae-yeong (Jae-yeong), Jeong Jin-yeong (Detective), Son Hyeon-ju (Tak Mun-bae), and Ko Eun-mi (Oh Young-ran)
Director: Jang Jin


This Korean movie is a wonderful - if sometimes insipid - crime comedy about four assassins who are deadly when it comes to efficiency on the job but complete nitwits when it comes to everything else. Populated by people who look as if they have just stepped out of a teenybopper magazine, these people may be too pretty for me, but this movie is so fine.

The Boss, Sang-yeon, is the eccentric and ruthless mastermind. His brother, the pretty Ha-yeon (Korean teen heartthrob Won Bin in his big screen debut and looking appropriately sullen and moody), is the sensitive hacker-type who is waiting for a chance to prove himself. Then there are the Bomber, Jung-woo, who's also the clown, and Jae-yeong, the Sniper. They live in the same house like bachelors who never grow up, and they watch the news just for the news presenter Oh Young-ran, whom all four have a crush on.

It can be cute, following how the other three choke on Ha-yeon's cooking or Jung-woo's inept courtship with a pregnant woman, if these four men haven't proven in the opening scene how easy they make the murder of four men in a space of half an hour seem. Most sexy is Ha-yeon, whose baby-faced handsome looks radiate virginal purity, as he points his gun at one guy and fires point blank. I swear my heart skips a beat at that scene. What, you want to see my membership card to the Sociopathic Groupies Club?

The trouble is, the four men they just murdered are connected to a drugs and crime boss Tak Mun-bae, and now a cop, whom I'll call Detective as I can't get his name in this movie, is on their tail. In the meantime, Jung-woo falls for the pregnant woman whom he's supposed to kill, while a school girl who knows their true identities start harassing them to kill her school teacher. But those are nothing compared to their grand finale of a job: to kill a popular actor in a soap operatic-rock Korean interpretation of Hamlet. Seriously, you have to see the amazing Hamlet reinterpretation to believe it. It's just glorious.

If you miss Hong Kong's fabulously high-octane noir dramas, you will relive the excitement in Guns & Talks. Rent it in a video store specializing in Asian movies if you can. In this movie, violence is presented in an elegant and deadly grace reminiscent of the best of John Woo: Jung-Woo doing an elegant maestro pose before detonating the cars behind him in a scene that makes Nicholas Cage's attempt in Face/Off looks clumsy in comparison; Ha-yeon looking at the audience, holding a rose like a handsome date to the prom and a gun in the other hand, a sexy and smouldering exercise in contradictions.

There's also fabulous comedy. Ha-yeon is the narrator of this story, and it's hilarious as he tries so hard to present a "moral voice" to the story. There is a funny scene where all four men enact an overblown melodramatic scene that have Ha-yeon poetically expressing the meaning of love while the other three weep. It's ridiculous, and it's the perfect satire of all those grandiose "what is love and life" introspective scenes in lesser noir movies.

If this movie have flaws, it's the plethora of subplots that go nowhere - the women in this story are practically nonentities. Sometimes these four men can be too dense for their own good (faced with an English sentence "I will never miss you", Jae-yeong comments that there are none among the four of them who can construct an English sentence that long, and their attempt of translation using a dictionary leads to "I am never Miss Yu" - who the heck is Miss Yu?). And the epilogue scene is actually unnecessarily too sweet.

But all in all, this movie is a beautiful comedy as well as an elegant ode to violence and bloodbath. The Hamlet finale is definitely one of the most powerful murder scenes I've ever seen, and Sang-yeon's scenes with the Detective just hums with poetic acrimony and barely restrained violence.

Forget Guy Ritchie and other wannabes, Guns & Talks blends comedy and violence into one sensual, evil caramel broth - definitely a movie for the sociopath in me. Of course, viewers who want a moral time should stay away, as the assassins here have their happy endings, but if you want a trip down the dark side where murder can be sexy, Guns & Talks's your thing.

Rating: 95


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