October 21, 2012

4 Toes: Comedy on the Fly

You get the feeling that writer-director Gye Yun-shik neither wrote for nor directed the actors in his jopok comedy 4 Toes but rather that he set up a couple of cameras then threw out spur-of-the-moment ideas for improvisation until he'd amassed enough material -- at least in terms of footage -- to cobble together a feature film. To that end, you've got skits about blood type, about a car's CD player, about a car accident with your buddy, about a mythical golden axe... You've also got skits based on locations, like a nightclub, a parking lot, a photo portrait studio, and a sauna which means for this big fight half the guys are naked, although never full-frontally so. Most scenes are super-short. Nothing really adds up. Nothing really goes anywhere either. There's no larger vision at work here outside of the desire to make a movie fast and cheap with some friends. And actually, it's a technique that could work but you'd have to have luck on your side and some actors who were a bit more naturally funny.

Fortune isn't smiling on Gye, however, or his four male leads, all of whom feel too old to be playing high school students in some scenes and too goofy to be gangsters in others. And yet, as ineffective as 4 Toes is, and as lazy as the script is (there's so much voiceover you'd think Gye was filming a novelization), I still appreciated the ballsiness of the undertaking. The willingness to risk, though it didn't pay off here, certainly explains why some members of the cast have gone on to much more successful comedies: Jeong Eun-pyo (Le Grand Chef), Kim Kap-su (She's on Duty), Lee Won-jong (200 Pounds of Beauty). Which suggests to me that sometimes there's something to be said for just practicing your craft in public or on celluloid or in this case what looks like digital video; and that there's no shame in having a little egg on your face if you're aiming to eventually get a part in an enjoyably frivolous movie that's light as a souffle. Even Gye went on to greater success: My Wife Is a Gangster 3 may not be a work of genius but it's a threequel in a fairly big film franchise.

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