December 29, 2007

Attack the Gas Station: It's a Gas Alright

I haven't had much luck with Korean comedies. So imagine how thoroughly tickled I was by Attack the Gas Station. It's not just that I laughed out loud a few times; it's that for the last half hour I couldn't stop smiling—maybe in part because that culturally freaky, ultraviolent slapstick was over. Attribute my unstoppable grin to Park Jeong-woo's screenplay, a script which understands exactly what makes a teen comedy great (even if the characters are a little older): The story has to begin by representing the rebellious spirit then end by presenting the less exuberant rewards of growing up. These four buddies—an artist, a rocker, an athlete, and a moron—are never meant to be realistic portrayals of disaffected youth on a criminal lark. They're comically instructive ones whose haircuts shorthand for character development and whose ability to change lives simply by being themselves borders on the magical. Director Kim Sang-jin (who also did Ghost House, another guilty pleasure) brings a nice sense of visual flair to the proceedings by opening a few scenes upside down or occasionally shooting from a corny POV. I don't fault him. Deep-seeded irreverence is Attack the Gas Station's greatest charm.

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