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Punch Lady - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Peon-chi Le-i-di

South Korea 2007

Drama, Comedy

Kang Hyo-jin

Do Ji-won
Son Hyeon-joo
Park Sang-wuk
Choi Seol-ri
Kim Ji-wan
Lee Joo-sil

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Punch Lady

Story: For years Ha-eun (Do Ji-won) is abused by her husband Joo-chang (Park Sang-wuk). To make matters worse her husband is also a professional kickboxer. When he also starts to become violent against the rebellious daughter Chun-shim (Choi Seol-ri), Ha-eun knocks him unconscious from behind. Because of that Joo-chang presses charges against his wife, who has to stay in prison for a few days. After being released she decides not to return to her husband. That's when her old boyfriend from back at high school visits her and invites her to a fighting contest at which he competes against her husband live on TV. The fight turns bad and Ha-eun's friend loses his life. Being beside herself with rage and despair Ha-eun barges into a press conference of her husband and challenges him to a fight in three months. He accepts and the media is right on the case. However, Ha-eun hasn't got a clue when it comes to fighting. Desperate as she is she is looking for a trainer and eventually finds one in Soo-hyeon (Son Hyeon-joo), who accepts her as his student because of the money she offers. It's just that Soo-hyeon himself hasn't got a clue about fighting either...

Review: It isn't that rare for a movie poster to raise wrong expectations. And that's also the case with "Punch Lady", which certainly is a genre mix, but not with an action flick or even a boxing film in the mix. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the initial disappointment about the fact that we don't get to see any awesome quarrels in the ring has to be absorbed first. Yet, apart from that the movie actually offers some well done dramatic moments and moreover deals with the topic of domestic violence in a refreshing way. The director does so by loosening up the events on screen with some humor. Also, the intention behind the story is laudable, but in the end the transfer of it on screen doesn't fully convince.

Punch Lady - Film Screenshot 11

In the beginning "Punch Lady" is pretty gritty, because the abuse of the female protagonist shown is captured in a rough and realistic fashion. The victim role that Ha-eun takes on apparently will stick with her forever until a tragic death changes her life. Finally she seems to have the urge of defending herself against her tormentor. But it is an imprudent kind of excelling yourself. She wants to compete against her husband in a kickboxing fight on live television. Of course this leads to protests in the society and the role of women is amply discussed, but we only get to see this on a side note. The upcoming fight seems rather ridiculous to begin with since it doesn't promise to maybe turn out as a win for Ha-eun. There is also the problem that her challenge has been declared in the heat of the moment and during a press conference, which is why there is a certain kind of social pressure weighing on her. Still, she doesn't know yet whether she will really face her husband in the ring or not.

Punch Lady - Film Screenshot 12

At one point in the movie Ha-eun says herself that she is quite aware of how ridiculous this fight actually is. And that's the big problem. Even if her husband gets one hand tight behind his back, she hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell. Thus, the most obvious thing to do would be to look for a trainer and train without taking a single break. However, even if studying your opponent intensively and working out according to a tight training schedule three months isn't enough time to really give you hope of being able to be successful. But "Punch Lady" does even worse. Ha-eun has so little knowledge of fighting that she ends up with someone who doesn't know squat about boxing himself. It's a but implausible that she doesn't notice her trainer's incompetence, but it gets even worse after that, too...

There is still hope that the wife turns out to be a natural. Far from it. Ha-eun is truely motor-skills challenged. Even if she had the best teacher in the world, it wouldn't really make a difference. After the gritty introduction it soon becomes obvious, that "Punch Lady" is a drama for most part with a heavy focus on comedy elements. This mixture turns out to work surprisingly well. But even if Ha-eun takes quite some beating in the finale, as not to be expected otherwise, it becomes apparent that she has learnt something from whatever source. But who or what was her teacher? How is it even possible that she knows anything at all about fighting? That's completely implausible and even though her movements might not seem as clumsy as they did during her training, you simply can't buy that she actually could stand her ground against a professional fighter for just ten seconds.

Punch Lady - Film Screenshot 13

This incredibility isn't the only aspect to criticize. Watching Ha-eun grow out of the role of the victim is nice to watch, but the message the movie wants to convey on screen is just presented in a manner that is too forced. The feminism in the movie outright annoys in its predictability and this even though it is loosened up a bit by some winks, for example through the comedic implementation of a husband who is abused by his overweight wife. Director Kang Hyo-jin ("Twilight Gangsters") wins us over concerning the subject he tackles and the story itself has potential, too, even the mix of drama and comedy doesn't come along with a bitter aftertaste, but the everything but subtle message and an unbelievable finale prevent the movie from being truely exciting.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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