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Original Title:
Killerdeului suda

South Korea 2001

Comedy, Action

Jang Jin

Shin Hyeon-jun
Shin Ha-kyun
Won Bin
Jeong Jae-yeong
Jeong Jin-yeong
Son Hyeon-ju
Lim Won-hui
Ko Eun-mi
Jeong Gyu-su
Min Yun-jeong
Kim Hak-cheol
Yun Ju-sang

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Guns and Talks

Story: Four young men provide their clients with a certain service. They kill people. The assassins can't understand why there are people who want to see other people dead, yet they still pursue their calling and kill without morally questioning their doings.
On one of their jobs the hitmen eliminate four guys, who where supposed to get a gang boss behind bars. The gang boss now gets free which is much to the dislike of the investigating detective (Jeong Jin-yeong). The detective now chases after the assassins and even manages to find out where they are living. Surprisingly, the four live under amazingly normal conditions in a big house which they share as a sort of living community.
Sang-yeon (Shin Hyeon-jun), the boss of the group is desperately trying to refuse to take on the job offer of a school girl, because the hit is not to be taken seriously, yet the girl proves to be quite persistent. Meanwhile, crazy former marathon runner Jung-woo (Shin Ha-kyun) struggles to get a job done which demands from him to kill a pregnant woman, who he has started to fall in love with. Then there is also Ha-yeon (Won Bin), who is protected by his brother Sang-yeon and wasn't allowed to do a kill himself, yet, and last but not least there is the sniper of the group Jae-yeong (Jeong Jae-yeong). Together they want to execute a really risky contract kill which they have to do under to police's nose without getting caught. But the investigating detective is still hot on their trails...

Review: "Guns and Talks" is director and script writer Jang Jin's attempt to breathe new life into the nowadays hackneyed hitman-genre. He is quite successful in doing so since his movie proves to be a somewhat unconventional comedy with at times bizarr humour, yet always playing on mainstream-level, which makes the film accessable for any viewer. We get one odd and funny situation after another, and moreover the several characters also deliver some nice impact. Nonetheless, action fans should be warned, because "Guns and Talks" is no real action-flick. In fact, this is also one of the movie's sore points, as the pacing of the film sometimes drags and after all Jang's film doesn't work as a whole. It's more like we are thrown into the life of these four individuals and are mere spectators of their everyday life, without being bound to the movie by something like a main story thread running through it.

Simply put, you could say that the movie is about the chase of the detective after the four assassins. This, apart from the characters, actually is the only thing that holds the film together at least a bit. Otherwise, you have the feeling to watch different episodes, which unluckily aren't segmented into several acts. There is an introduction in which Won Bin ("Taegukgi") serving as a narrator tells us about the lifes of the characters. Still, there isn't much to tell, since the characters at first remain somewhat stereotyped. We have the quiet sniper, the gone-mad killer, the liable and planing leader and his brother, who is protected by him. Fortunately, little by little some more character features of the four unfold on screen.

After the introduction we get to see the first contract kill, which probably is the most thrilling part of the whole movie. Sure, everything looks a little bit too contrived, yet the director succeeds in letting the audience's adrenalin get pumped through their veins. However, after this sequence that's it with the tension and action already. In the movie's further progression there is nothing really thrilling happening anymore. It's true, that one never gets bored, but at the end you might find yourself asking what's it all about? It seems like the producers of the movie themselves weren't sure what they wanted to do or express, but at the end we are pretty sure that entertainment is the name of the game. At least in delivering this, Jang surely succeeds.

"Guns and Talks" gets a whole lot of extra points for its outstanding humour. No, you won't be rolling over the floor laughing every other second, but the jokes still are very likeable and mainly work because of the happy and cheerful atmosphere of the film. Many of these jokes, for example when Sang-yeon is supposed to blast away a target's left hand, however at the reception desk when accepting the change he is given the right hand, can't be described by words, but can best be laughed at when watching them. It's the same with Ha-yeon, who acting as the movie's narrator suddenly gets muddled while doing one of his monologues and points out that there is nothing more worse than not knowing what one actually wanted to say in a monologue. There are also other moments when the film scores with a sometimes deadpan, yet also inventive humour. The scene in which Ha-yeon starts to talk about love is incredibly cheesy and at the very moment we want to blame the director for such a lame scene we realise that the other three of the killers aren't moved to tears, as it may look like at first, but actually try to hide their laughing.

Although, having said the above, this surely is a comedy, you can't deny the fact that there are also some more serious and almost dramatic moments found in the movie. Interestingly enough, and that's were script writer Jang deserves some credit, the four assassins aren't trying to change their profession and are also not caught in a real moral predicament, aside from the small love story and the more funny ending. The only thing is that Ha-yeon indirectly criticizes that people like them are needed, but he never really complains, because he likes his job, as the other three of the group do.
Nevertheless, this drives a wedge between the audience and the characters. You just can't really identify with the four men, because although they are a bunch of nice guys and actually normal ones at that, their "profession" hinders the viewer to unrestrainedly sypmathize with them. The same goes for the detective, who seems to have a more twisted idea of what's lawful and what's not, than what we expected from him. Thus, the ending comes as a bit of a surprise and serves us with a nice twist, yet some disappointment is left, because ultimately one would have wished for more coherency and substance in "Guns and Talks".

There is nothing special to be discovered concerning the acting. The performances are mostly solid up to good, nonetheless the characters oftentimes remain just too two-dimensional. Especially Jeong Jae-yeong ("Someone Special"), who is playing the sniper, gets only a real rough deal. Moreover, even Won Bin's character who we spend most time of the movie with, just doesn't look real enough.
Besides, the last half hour is somewhat bumpy and the last big assassination scene is also far from being as intense as it was intended to be. At least, as already said there are some nice small twists towards the end.
Unfortunately, there are way too many characters, that are featured in the film for a short amount of time and then just disappear. The same goes for some of the story pieces/sidestories, which on their own are nice to watch, but aren't pieced together to a whole.

Director Jang can make up for many of the flaws with some nice camera work and good ideas, for example the three-splitted screen or the at times dynamic camera movement in general. The pacing, apart from the already mentioned parts, is mostly pleasently high, the humour is entertaining and the basically loveable characters can keep the viewer's interest until the very end. All in all, "Guns and Talks" can be described as a well-executed attempt to revive a presumable dead genre and at the same time imbueing it with a good amount of humour, taking the viewer on a real fun-ride.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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