August 24, 2008

Spare: Bad Luck, Bad Script, Bad Hair

By the time he hit the editing room, director Lee Seong-han presumably knew that Spare would fall short as a work of art. But rather than leave his reels in dusty tins on a high shelf in some forgotten closet, he dressed up his movie with fancy opening credits, pointless jump cuts and periodic dialogue in which an unseen audience reacts a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. (To Lee's credit, the fake viewers are as indifferent as you're gonna be.) Strippped of these embellishments, Spare is basically an action film oddly short on action. Most of its 98 minutes build to fight scenes that keep being delayed. What's weird is how often violence is promised: A cigar clipper stands ready to snip off fingers but doesn't; a ninja sword is unsheathed yet no one is stabbed. The two irresponsible gamblers at center are constantly under a gun that never fires. A punch in the face is as gruesome as the big battles get. More offensive are a turquoise-and-purple striped carpet in the airport and a shellacked ducktail hairdo that prevents you from taking the Japanese lead seriously. A strange two-piece suit with a metalic pin-stripe will leave you screaming, "Spare me!" Is that what Spare means?

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