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Scout - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2007

Comedy, Drama, Romance

Kim Hyeon-seok

Im Chang-jeong
Eom Ji-won
Park Cheol-min
Lee Dae-yeon
Baek Il-seob
Yang Hee-kyeong
Lee Geon-joo

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Story: Ho-chang (Im Chang-jeong) is actually supposed to take a vacation. But when his boss has a car accident and ends up in hospital, he has to go to Gwangju and scout the pitcher Sun Dong-yeol for his school's baseball team. A rival school almost manages to win him over, so that Ho-chang has trouble even meeting Dong-yeol. Instead, he meets somebody else in the city, an old friend from his college days. Back then, Se-yeong (Eom Ji-won) left him unexpectedly and now it becomes really awkward between them when he fills in for a gym teacher at the school she is teaching at. The former gangster Geon-tae (Park Cheol-min) assumes that Ho-chang wants to steal his girlfriend and does all he can to get rid of Ho-chang. For this, he even reactivates old contacts to help Ho-chang to get ahold of Dong-yeol. As a matter of fact, Ho-chang wants to go back to Seoul as soon as he manages to seal the contract with the pitcher, because in 1980 the situation between protesting students and the government culminates.

Review: By now, it should be no surprise anymore that South Korea is crazy about baseball. Despite its initial focus on this subject and the search for the famous 80s pitcher Sun Dong-yeol, sports plays a minor part in the comedy "Scout", though. Towards the end, the movie becomes surprisingly ambitious, even though it is nothing out of the ordinary for Korea anymore to throw comedy, romance and drama together. Nevertheless, we can see a director at work, who, apart from a few critical points, has a highly promising talent and thus eventually had a lot of success with "Cyrano Agency". "Scout", on the other hand, is a rather unknown piece of work, which on closer consideration does not deserve the lack of attention it receives at all.

What strikes the eye the most is the love for detail with which director Kim Hyeon-seok put his journey into the past on the screen. Rarely have I seen a better journey into South Korea's 80s. This ranges from the cars in the streets to the room interiors and TV reports, which the protagonists are occasionally watching during the movie. "Scout" is set in a politically controversial time, only a few days before the proclamation of nationwide martial law on May 18, 1980 and the following Gwangju massacre. Nevertheless, the movie mostly keeps its light-hearted tone. Surprisingly, the way in which the genres are mixed, is not bothersome that much, only towards the end the drama comes to the fore, naturally.

Here and there, we see some flashbacks portraying the development of the relationship between Ho-chang and Se-yeong during the 70s. Those years, too, are presented with famous milestones, such as Bruce Lee's death. However, here we can clearly see the movie's weaknesses. At the beginning, the film mostly focuses on the talent scouting. Even though the protagonists meet each other again after a long time and we know that there was something going on between them, this storyline is recklessly neglected at first only to then push itself to the fore along with the aforementioned flashbacks and in the end it even becomes the movie's main theme. This unnecessarily splits "Scout" in two.

Kudos go to the actors and the way the characters are elaborated, though. Even the supporting roles appear strikingly vivid. Park Cheol-min scores as a former gangster, who turned to poetry, and the scenes with Dong-yeol's family are probably the most entertaining moments of the movie. Lead actor Im Chang-jeong ("Miracle on 1st Street") is allowed to play his character in a very likeable way and does not have to take on his typical embarrassing, extroverted role. Eom Ji-won ("Like You Know It All"), though, serves as a calm antipole to the otherwise cheerful nature of the movie. Her character seems to have more depth and secrets than we do actually get to see in the end. The actors do not only carry the humor, which apart from some few slapstick moments also offers some nice gags, but also portray real individuals.

It is debatable, though, whether the movie's ambition to slip in historical events really worked. Ho-chang wants to keep away from all political issues but they always catch up with him. However, here and there we see some student protests towards the end. "Scout" lays its focus too much on political issues, even though this creates space for a rather nice finale. After all, director Kim Hyeon-seok manages to find his way back to the romance and provides a surprisingly grown-up ending for this storyline, which on the other hand might not fit the comedic aspect of the movie that much. Kim was very ambitious with "Scout", the genre mix works really good, but not everywhere. The only shortcoming is that the director shifted his focus one time too many. Still, you get the feeling that this movie sunk into obscurity for no justifiable reason.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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