July 5, 2008

Les Formidables: This Brotherhood Knows No Bounds

Nothing pleases like a tale of redemption. And in Les Formidables, writer-director Cho Min-ho has made an action-packed one in which a degenerative detective (Park Joong-hoon) and a principled criminal (Cheon Jeong-myeong) have a shared lesson in selflessness and the meaning of true friendship. Unlike his earlier buddy flick Jungle Juice (which was a guilty pleasure at best), Cho's Les Formidables wastes no time setting up its story of two men on the run by looking for laughs in dorky adolescent humor. Brutal and spare despite its corkscrew narrative, the movie opens with a spectacular fight scene that leaves Park's cop with a battered head, a loss of dignity, and no partner. Next up is Cheon's just-as-rapid descent from self-employed short-order cook to bloodied, bewildered fugitive. What keeps the heart pounding from then on is Cho's skill in tightening the net around the duo by having one side of the law then the other get closer and closer to capturing and/or killing. That each man has a friend on on the inside and a woman on the outside who'll go to great lengths (one for love; the other, for kicks) ensures that this action movie outpaces its competition in the genre. The bobbypin scene qualifies as a classic.

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