May 15, 2012

My Boss, My Hero: Mafia School

Clearly writer-director Yun Je-gyun's My Boss, My Hero is a comedy, but what sub-genre does it fit into best? Jopok comedy? Sure, that'll work since its lead character Do-shik (Jeong Jun-ho) is an up-and-coming gangster who appears to have taken a leadership class from that slap-happiest of stooges Moe. Teen comedy? That'll work too since the action takes place primarily at a private high school where Do-shik has returned -- somewhat preposterously given that he's now in his late 20s -- to get his diploma. Romantic comedy? Why not, since there's not just one but two kooky love stories: one involving fellow mobster Sang-do (Jeong Woong-in) who starts courting the school's hot English teacher (Song Seon-mi) at T.G.I. Friday's; the other a strangely platonic romance between Do-shik and class-smartie-cum-karaoke-hooker Yun-ju (Oh Seung-eun). Fish out of water comedy? It's got some of that. Sex comedy? That too. Slapstick comedy? Generational divide comedy? Gross-out comedy? Comedy of manners? Yes times four. There are few sub-genres that My Boss, My Hero doesn't incorporate into its plot. I guess, road movie and mockumentary are covered in one of the two sequels.

Funny thing about My Boss, My Hero, however, is that the best part isn't the comedy. It's the martial arts. The movie has two really enjoyable fight scenes, one involving Do-shik taking on a rival teen gang all by himself; the other, which starts similarly with Do-shik against many, eventually ends up a more balanced battle as Do-shik is joined by his fellow gang members and the entire student body to take on the thugs hired by the corrupt corporation that is making a mockery of their education. Both fights are well choreographed, and the second one features added tension created by a handheld camera guided, at times, by a cheerful flasher who periodically shows up in the story to expose himself. I can't say I laughed continuously throughout My Boss, My Hero. Indeed some of the incidental violence in which teachers hit students is truly shocking in its realness. But the climactic fight, which builds to a tag team brawl in the rain, is so exhilarating that you really do crave two sequels. I'm hoping at least one of them gives increased screen time to Jeong Un-take who plays an idiotic second banana name Head who's like a big, dumb puppy. I'd also like to see more of the skinny actor playing the queeny student who straightens his hair with his flip-phone in the girls room. He's a hoot.

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