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Original Title:
Bangawoon Salinja

South Korea 2010

Thriller, Comedy

Kim Dong-wook

Kim Dong-wook
Yu Oh-seong
Shim Eun-kyung
Song Wok-suk
Sung Ji-ru
Kim Eung-soo
Kim Seon-hyeok
Lee Mi-do

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Happy Killers

aka Hello! Murderer

Story: A killer is striking fear into people's hearts. Every time it rains a woman falls victim to him. The young detective Jung-min (Kim Dong-wook) has his hands full with the case but he isn't the only one who is chasing after the serial killer. Unemployed Kim Yeong-seok (Yu Oh-seong) is also working on the case because of the high reward on the killer's head. In fact his investigation methods prove to be more successful than those of the police. However, he is chased after by Jung-min because of a personal defamation. The detective finds out that Yeong-seok has gone bankrupt and was reported missing for about two years until he suddenly turned up at his wife and daughter's place. Yeong-seok's daughter Ha-rin (Shim Eun-kyung) has also problems dealing with school because of her family issues. And when she gets to see her father wearing woman's clothes she assumes that he is actually the wanted murderer...

Review: Now there is no doubt about it anymore: It has come into fashion in Korea to mix dark thriller stories with comedy and this to the dismay of the audience. Not black humor awaits us in most cases but simple slapstick as in "Happy Killers". Korean filmmakers have always been eager to cover as many genres as possible with their films, but this proves to be a balancing act that not everyone is able to pull off. In "Happy Killers" a mystery short story by Seo Mi-ae is used and enhanced by some supposedly funny scenes. This completely destroys the tone of the film so that the actual murder case takes a backseat and we are confronted with the characters alone.

And they aren't really exceptionally drawn either. Actor Kim Dong-wook ("Take Off"), who by accident shares his name with the director of the film, portrays a police detective who doesn't take his job too serious and wants to be a public official anyway. Since Yeong-seok has been put in a bad light on the internet he is also more interested in catching the unemployed guy than to bring the serial killer behind bars. The actually pretty serious story of the film is therefore oftentimes overlooked and gets lost in too many subplots that don't fit into the overall atmosphere of the movie. That is because every now and then there are also some gritty scenes, a bloody body at the roadside, dark, rainy alleys - and right next to that you'll find stupid slapstick on several occasions.

However, it takes until the second half of the movie until we realize that all we got was simply an introduction to the several characters. Strangely enough this is also the most entertaining part of the film, because when we start to understand that "Happy Killers" was really heading nowhere up to this point, unrest starts to build up within the audience. The screenplay is unstructured and over and over again loses focus of the case it should center around. When the director is really shifting his focus on the serial killings during the second half the flaws of the movie become even more obvious, though. The search for the murderer simply drags on in an unspectacular way and the police turns out to be an astonishingly incapable bunch that is outdone by an unemployed hobby detective.

What's the thriller making so interesting is Yu Oh-seong's ("Potato Symphony") character. His family has almost fallen apart completely, his wife is soon moving in with another man and he has no good rapport with his daughter either. She also gets a little subplot which sole purpose at first is to get a little bit more humor into the film, but eventually becomes more dramatic. The only thing that is in fact funny in "Happy Killers" concerning the humor is that Yeong-seok really develops too much of a liking for dressing like a woman. Apart from that the chemistry between the policeman and the hobby detective turns out nice on some occasions, but the humor is just too slapstick-heavy in order to really make you laugh.

"Happy Killers" is an entertaining movie all the way through and even has a nice twist up its sleeve. The actual chase after the killer gets too little room, though, instead the thriller is filled with unnecessary subplots, like that of Jung-min's mother, which even don't contribute to shedding more light on the protagonists. Apart from that it's the half-baked script and the atmosphere of the film which are a bother. To name an example there is the last victim of the killer. If you look closely at the clothes you know right away who the dead woman is and that person in fact never turns up in the course of the story again. The victim is mentioned with no word again, as if the filmmakers didn't want to ruin the lighthearted nature of the movie and thus took the clarification of the victim's identity out of the final cut. Therefore, "Happy Killers", with its uneven atmosphere, barely misses a worse rating.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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