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South Korea 2005

Crime, Romance, Drama

Andrew Lau

Jeon Ji-Hyun
Lee Sung-Jae
Jung Woo-Sung
Jeon Ho-jin
David Chiang
Dion Lam

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Story: Hye-young (Jeon Ji-Hyun) lives in Amsterdam and helps out her grandfather at his antiques shop. She also earns some money by drawing portraits for tourists. One day Jeong-Woo (Lee Sung-Jae) takes a seat in front of her and lets Hye-young do a drawing of him. In reality Jeong-Woo is a policeman trying to observe the activities of a bunch of gangsters from this position without causing any suspicion. The group he is after is supplying Asia with drugs and Jeong-woo wants to finally get them and the masterminds behind bars.
However, Hye-young believes the man to be her secret admirer, who sends her daisies every day. After a while Jeong-woo actually starts to have feelings for Hye-young, yet he hasn't the heart to tell her that he is not her admirer she is so desperately looking for.
Park-yi (Jung Woo-Sung) is an assassin, who one day watches Hye-young painting a field of daisies. He watches her on several occassions and eventually falls in love with her from a distant. Ever since he sends her flowers. But suddenly he has a rival in the form of a cop, which is why he has to be exceptionally careful with every move he takes, as he is already the suspect in a few murder cases. Moreover, he doesn't want to get Hye-young in danger. Still, he can't just give her up without a fight. In the end a battle for Hye-young's love has to be fought out between the cop and the assassin that proves to be more deadly to anyone involved than what they might have thought...

Review: "Daisy" is a blockbuster through and through. The most popular stars of Korea and one of the most acclaimed directors of Hong Kong, just next to Johnnie To, Andrew Lau shoot a romantic thriller according to a script of "My Sassy Girl" writer Kwak Jae-Yong. The pictures look great, Amsterdam is a refreshingly different setting than what we are used to see in Asian Cinema and the actor's efforts are over-the-top. What could actually go wrong with having onboard names like that?
Well, a lot. Even if "Daisy" without a doubt scores with some nice stuff, the film still proves to be a bitter disappointment. Having in mind the names of the people involved one really could have expected more of this dream team. But in the end, we just get a standard story with some at times contrived looking picures. Nice to look at, but nearly no substance to be found here.

To avoid any future misunderstandings: This review is about the Director's Cut version, which doesn't only differ from the original cut concerning the ending, but also has been edited completely different. Even though I myself can't make any comparison, it is said that the Director's Cut version is the one to go with, like it is the case with most movies.
Actually, it's not that difficult to pinpoint why "Daisy" is so highly disappointing. Everything, from the pictures to the music and actors just promises to deliver quality, and yet in the end we don't really get it. This is the more frustrating as Lau's work isn't that bad, it's just that it can't meet the expectations it raises itself throughout the movie. Furthermore, somewhere along the way the protagonists start to behave unbelievable and irrational. Suddenly love stands above everything else. The fact that Park-yi is an assassin for whatever reasons doesn't matter to Hye-youngn, anymore, and formerly bitter enemies Park-yi and Jeong-woo become rivals on love's battlefield, who respect each other in an almost amicably manner.

What "Daisy" tries to sell as a love triangle just doesn't work out and this consequently harms the whole movie. Why the cop and the killer suddenly spare their lives is somewhat evident in its core, but still not comprehensible. Hye-young stands between these two men, rather loving the thought or the actions of the one who admires her, so to speak loving an idealized picture, than actually loving one of the men in front of her. This "being in love with love itself" makes her somehow forget all the immoral acts of her lover. Basically, this relation could have worked that way and be even somewhat credible, but the movie again falters here, as it does, too, when trying to draw a nice character sketch of the killer with a heart. Jung Woo-sung ("A Moment to Remember") succeeds in giving his character some in-depth, which nonetheless doesn't change the fact that the story depicts him too much as a not well elaborated stereotype.

Let's just stick to the actors: Jeon Ji-Hyun ("My Sassy Girl") as always is adorable and manages to bewitch the audience with her charm. Most of the time she is occupied with crying, but she also succeeds to breathe life into her character. The best performance, however, is given by Lee Sung-jae ("Public Enemy") who is surely to win over the viewer in an instant, playing the rightous cop. More than once this team of three great actors manages to make up for some of the movie's flaws, but this isn't always enough.
Aside from several logical gaps concerning the behaviour of the protagonists, there are numerous irritating monologues from the main characters, as they put in words what's actually obvious in the first place. That is why one has to believe, that the moviemakers take us for idiots - or at least too dumb to mentally grasp what's going on, which is the more shocking as Andrew Lau managed to create clever cinema with his "Infernal Affairs" trilogy before. But maybe the fault is to be looked for at the script writer's hand.

Nevertheless, there is one thing that director Lau really deserves to be scolded for, that is the several freeze-ins, unnecessary slow-motion sequences etc. Lau is too much in love with his former works and so he quotes from them whereever he can. This involves for instance flashbacks in black and white, or pictures where only certain objects or individuals are colored. These are some nice gimmicks and as it is with almost everything in the movie it looks wonderful, but you still can't overlook the fact that it also makes the film seem very contrived in its style. Sometimes these scenes even look very redundant.
If it's action you are looking for, then you'll get disappointed, too, because except of a short showdown there is nothing to be found concerning shoot-outs. "Daisy" is no action flick, but a romantic drama with strong thriller aspects. The film also remains very serious in its undertone, which means that some of the well-intented love scenes look rather cheesy.
For the music the composers deserve a big thumps up. Shigeru Umebayashi ("House of Flying Daggers") and Chan Kwong Wing ("Infernal Affairs") are two outstanding composers and prove this once again. The musical themes are sometimes dreamy, romantic and at other times thrilling. The score is of great variety, even if there is a stark accent on the more romantic themes. This becomes more evident at the end when there is even a somewhat cheesy, but also beautiful piece sung by a female voice.

So why does the movie take place in Amsterdam? Because it looks wonderful with its european buildings and all the green fields! Apart from that there seems to be no other real reason for this. Still, this is one of the smaller problems of the movie. "Daisy" is supposed to be appealing and to a certain degree it also succeeds in it with its grande pictures and fine actors. At the same time, however, the film also feels too contrived and tries too hard to jerk some tears from the viewer. Every now and then the director hits the mark, but more often than that he just doesn't. What's especially unforgiveable is that at the end you'll just be frustrated, because there is nothing outstanding to be found here. Which is the more sad as the pictures seem to promise something different.

If you're watching the movie for a second time and you already know what to expect, namely an almost heart-wrenching overstyled romantic flick with great pictures, and if furthermore you are also willing to let the film carry you away, then the movie is actually quite appealing and even would get a better rating. But we all have expectations, especially when there are so many big names involved in a film, and that's where "Daisy" just can't meet up with what it promises, thus making it a disappointing view.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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