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Original Title:
Wild Card

South Korea 2003

Crime, Comedy

Kim Yu-jin

Jang Dong-kun
Jeong Jin-yeong
Seo Jae-kyeong
Gi Ju-bong
Hwang Jun-yeong
Yu Ha-bok
Han Chae-young
Seong Chang-hoon

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Wild Card

Story: Je-su (Jang Dong-kun) is a young detective who has stamina as well as brains. His partner Yeong-dal (Jeong Jin-yeong) has the necessary experience in the job, but he is also the target of an internal investigation since he unhesitatingly made use of his gun. After a series of seemingly unrelated murder cases the city is in turmoil. Four teenagers look for victims to rob and kill. Except for the money there doesn't seem to be any motive and so with the rising number of murder cases the pressure on the police chief is upped as well. Yeong-dal is now even utilizing every gangster in town he knows to find the four killers. When suddenly a woman gets raped by the four but is being left alive the police soon has a mugshot of them. But it still seems to be difficult to find a lead. However, eventually the killers make a mistake. Je-su and Yeong-dal lead them into a trap and a showdown commences.

Review: Those who have already seen a few Korean cop-movies know how incompetent the police is depicted there. "Wild Card" draws a bit more positive picture, but when taking a closer look Korean police force wouldn't be capable to maintain law and order in a western country. But more about that later on. At first it has to be noted that this fun cop film is surprisingly entertaining despite a very thin story. Mostly that is thanks to the likeable characters and colorful individuals that can be fun at any time in the movie. A good amount of humor and an appealing chemistry between the characters make the 120 minutes of chasing after the criminals fly by like an arrow.

Still, "Wild Card" carries around a load of problems as well. For instance there are the four teenagers which embody the villains in the movie, but don't show any character traits at all except of them being evil. One of them is a little exception and this is also why we realize even the more how much more you could have made of the chase after the killers if the characters had been fleshed out threedimensionally. After all this leads to the next problem. Since the four guys are acting at complete random there is no thrilling investigation either. If it weren't for the interaction between the interesting main characters the movie easily could have become downright boring. How little story there actually is in the film also becomes apparent when you realize that it is in fact summarized above almost entirely.

However, there still isn't any spoilering because as already stated the story is completely negligible. Jang Dong-kun ("Fighter in the Wind", "Address Unknown") and Jeong Jin-yeong ("The King and the Clown") carry the film with their charisma. A few nice supporting characters are also added like the police chief or a cooperative gangster boss who soon becomes extremely annoying the way he talks. We also get a small insight look into the private life of the two protagonists, but in the end many of the story threads are simply dropped or just commented with a few words. This also concerns a promising romantic relationship that Jang Dong-kun could become part of. Thus, it seems that for unknown reasons some good opportunities aren't seized.

The movie's general tone is always very lighthearted although concerning the killings they are committed in a distressingly coldblooded way. There is fast action and dialogues all the time. "Wild Card" also stands out with a very Hollywood-like look which most likely was just hip back then because of the "Shiri"-hype at that time. A well done soundtrack also underlines the fact that South Korea was aiming for a more modern cinematography in its thrillers. But the actions of the police oftentimes seem rather ridiculous. In Korea there seems to be a certain hierarchy between police and gangsters so that the gangsters sit in front of them as if being scolded by the school principal and even hold their heads low when getting beaten by them. Oftentimes the police also uses baseball bats but at the same time the use of firearms is strongly restricted because of their excessive violence factor. As if you couldn't inflict deadly wounds with a blunt weapon, too...

The four teenagers are the first ones who don't let themselves be put into the prevailing hierarchy corset of the police but as villains they are simply too shallow. Kudos go to the likeable characters, nice dialogues and some well implemented jokes. However, when the 120 minutes are over you have to ask yourself what you can actually take with you from this movie. The answer is disillusioning: nothing. No matter how entertaining "Wild Card" may be it isn't really an inventive genre entry and is soon forgotten. Its entertainment value was the reason why it was also exported overseas, though. Simple diverting entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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