September 14, 2008

Hi Dharma: The Bald Truth About Monks and Mayhem

Maybe dressing like a monk is as ha-ha funny as dressing in drag to Buddhist temple-goers. True or not, for a cutesy comedy about gangsters hiding out in a monastery, you kind of wish the impostors had gone all the way and shaved their heads. Instead, Park Chul-kwan's Hi! Dharma! has the mafiosos swapping two-piece suits for drab brown robes and leaves it at that. (The actors probably didn't want to jeopardize their chances at better roles when the shoot for this one was done.) What we've got here isn't a group of thugs trying to pass as ascetics. It's a competition between the bad boys and the goody goodies: Who can bow more? Who can hold his breath longer? Who's better at cards? Not the most cinematic of challenges for sure. The winner gets to decide whether the gang-members get to stay and for how long. Also not too dramatic. When it comes down to who's the fiercest fighter, predictably, the most kick-ass martial artist (Jeong Jin-yeong) comes from the nonviolent side. Unabashedly cornball and cheesy, Hi! Dharma! is definitely fast food cinema. You won't laugh until your stomach hurts but you'll be tided over until something more fulfilling comes along.

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