January 13, 2016

Kiss Me, Kill Me: Hired Killer, Suicidal Dame

I'm on the fence about Shin Hyeon-jun. Sure, he's handsome as hell and charming to boot but can he act? I'm beginning to doubt it. So what if he's likable in the Married to the Mafia movies? Big deal if he can hold his own in the Son of a General series. Kudos to him for picking scripts that lead to franchises — and no doubt his bank is well stocked — but damn him for never going deep, especially now when deep is just what Kiss Me, Kill Me needs. Don't brush me off with the retort that this is an absurdist comedy about a hired assassin who falls for a klutzy young client (Kang Hye-jeong) who initially wants him to kill her because she doesn't have the wherewithal to off herself. Since writer-director Yang Jong-Hyun's movie occasionally lurches into places where a little gravity would go a long way.

The despair that comes when you find out that the love of your life still pines for another, the fear that accompanies aging out of your career while lacking other marketable skills, the longing which struggles to come to the surface when you're hemorrhaging from a gunshot wound and your girlfriend is holding you in her arms... These are all situations that another actor might've run with but Shin tends to flatten out at such moments, at best transitioning from a blank stare to a sly smile that admittedly wins you over but at what cost? Must Shin always revert to summoning up the appeal of a puppy?

I don't mean to undersell Shin. He's a deft light comedian, a master of the side-eye, the double-take and deadpan in general. Without him, Kiss Me, Kill Me wouldn't be worth watching at all. But there are some actors you really, really like that you wish that you could love. For that to happen with Shin, we'd need to get serious. He's made over two dozen movies. Perhaps our cinematic romance lies ahead. Until then, we're not really on speaking terms, as friends.

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