Story: Choi Gon (Park Joong-hoon) was a big star at the end of the 80s, but like many singers at that time handling money wasn't his forte.
There were also several drug delicts that constantly made headlines. Over fifteen years later Choi Gon still gets himself into trouble, but nowadays his
music is out of date and so he only performs at small coffee shops or restaurants. Like back in the old days his manager Min-soo (Ahn Seong-gi) is
self-sacrificingly taking care of him. Min-soo makes sure that his fights aren't causing too much of a stir and tries to somehow have him believe that
he still matters as a musician. Choi happily indulges in this believe, even if this means that Min-soo barely gets to see his own family with all the
work he has to do because of him. When one day Choi Gon is once again involved in a fight the manager hasn't anyone left to turn to for help anymore. Only an
acquaintance of his agrees to get the musician out of jail when in return Choi works as a disk jockey at the local radio station of the small town Yong-wol
which is about to close its doors in three months. Producer Kang (Choi Jeong-yoon) is also transfered to the station for disciplinary reasons. Despite
initial difficulties Choi starts to reinvent himself...
Review: "Radio Star" is one of those films that by themselves are absolutely unspectacular, yet manage to be engaging from the very start.
To put it in a nutshell: The movie has soul. Something that sadly is a rare find these days. The themes of friendship, loyality and self-sacrifice are
conveyed with a sense of sensitiveness that makes them touching without taking a detour via your usual kitsch. But not only its carefully written screenplay
distinguishes this comedy-drama, but most importantly the wonderful chemistry between the two main actors. Furthermore, there are also some music segments
that are responsible for spreading a good mood as well as some pretty good gags, which as is the case with the movie in general, work on a subtle
level and never neglect the emotional impact.
In its core "Radio Star" is a drama, but not one of those that brings its drama across with a sledgehammer. In this respect the movie differs from modern works
of the genre. Sure, there are a few moments that are more directly aimed at touching the audience, but the film is always far from being a cheap tearjerker.
Oftentimes it is even surprising what profoundness the film reaches when illuminating the virtue of a close friendship. Choi Gon is arrogant and a rockstar
straight out of a picture book with all the negative character traits associated with it. Min-soo on the other hand is a manager who gives up his own private
life only to keep the illusion alive for Choi Gon that he is still a star. Min-soo easily could have looked like a servant, but especially in the later parts
of the movie it becomes obvious that the friendship isn't one-sided at all.
Park Joong-hoon and Ahn Seong-gi have already acted side by side in a few other movies like "Nowhere to Hide". The chemistry
between the actors is great and the level of intimacy shouldn't come as a surprise since they are real-life friends for several years now. Accordingly, this
is a walk in the park for director Lee Joon-ik, who after his extremely successful "The King and the Clown" delivers
a surprisingly small film, here. Thus, it's no wonder that the movie didn't do so well at the box office at first, but by word-of-mouth advertising eventually
became a success. That is because a movie that looks so negligible at first naturally arouses little interest. But the heart that is hidden within "Radio Star"
will win over any viewer eventually. Because we are truely interested in the characters.
For this to be possible there is of course strong need for a good screenplay. Choi Seok-hwan delivers exactly that and like "The Happy Life" one year later which he also wrote and was directed by Lee Joon-ik the movie oozes out the kind of charm with its three-dimensional characters and its life-affirming themes that is very hard to resist. In the beginning Choi Gon may arouse only little interest, but his new job at the radio station forces him to reflect on his life and he realizes how much space his friendship with Min-soo takes up in it. Also, the music which plays its part creating that love of life shouldn't be underestimated either. The music should be especially appealing to a middle-aged audience since there are many Korean 80s ballads covered, which strongly ride on the nostalgia train. Actor Park Joong-hoon even sings himself.
A major part of the movie's charm stems from the supporting characters. Via the radio station job Choi Gon learns to trim back his egocentric ways and put his fellow men into the foreground. Therefore, he offers radio listeners the chance to use his program as a mouthpiece. That way you get to know a lot of interesting or simply funny individuals that all in all make the movie more colorful and let the small town almost shrink to one giant family, even though that's also when the movie loses some of its focus. Especially some of the gags are pretty nice, though. This well-balanced mix of lighthearted drama, humor and music makes "Radio Star" a heart-warming film that is particularly good because it works within a small frame. Nowadays, it has unfortunately become very rare to get a well-written screenplay and great chemistry between the protagonists.