Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guns And Talks (2001)

Guns and Talks (2001)

AKA Killerduelua Suda

Jang Jin, Director. 125 Minutes.

Guns and Talks is the dubious American title for a South Korean action comedy about four freelance assassins whose lives get complicated when they get too interested in their assignments and their clients. This is just after a job that they completed for a local crime boss attracts the attention of a district attorney.

The first thing to catch my eye about this film was the cast. The group's leader, Sang-yeon, played by Shin Hyeon-Jun (Barefoot Ki-Bong, Kiss Me Kill Me), is primarily assisted by demolitions expert Jung-woo, played by one of my favorite actors, Shin Ha-Kyun (No Mercy For The Rude, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), and firearms specialist Jae-young played by another favorite, Jeong Jae-Yeong (Welcome to Dongmakgol, Righteous Ties.) The fourth and youngest member of the group is Ha-yeon, Sang-yeon's little brother, and is played by Won Bin (in his first major film role.) Won Bin, of course, would later go on to star in great films like Tae Guk Gi, Mother, and most recently, The Man From Nowhere. The district attorney whose attention is focused on Sang-yeon is played by Jeong Jin-Yeong (Green Fish). (Writer's Note: With a cast like that, how could I not be interested?? All it would need is Choi Min Sik as a crime boss and Song Kang Ho as Jeong Jin-Yeong's supervisor or something and I wouldn't even care what the plot was about anymore. Ha ha!)

Early in the film we see the team kill a few people who can testify against a local crime boss who is currently in police custody. The kills are stylishly shot and pretty to look at, despite stretching the limits of believability a bit right out of the gate. (We were all disappointed as children to discover that we couldn't actually crawl around throughout the air duct system of buildings, it wasn't just me, right?) This effectively kills the case against the crime boss, which greatly upsets the district attorney over the case. The district attorney comes to the conclusion that the killings were not of the style that the crime boss or his men would employ and begins to investigate further, putting him on the trail of the group of assassins. Around this same time, a schoolgirl who has figured out what they do for a living begins brashly hounding the group to kill her teacher who is an ex-lover. Things are further complicated when Jung-woo is assigned to kill a pregnant young woman that he is attracted to, and Sang-yeon takes on a very public and dangerous contract despite all of the attention that is on the group from the police.

Let me put my cards on the table early. The assassin as protagonist angle has been done far too many times for its own good at this point. If real life assassins were kept as busy as they are in cinema, it wouldn't be long before there would be no population problem on this planet. Even the subcategory, if you can call it that, of assassins having a heart and falling in love has been overdone. This film is no exception. In fact, looking at this film with the same level of critique that I normally use on this blog, this film is not good. (Here's where I get to admit to being a bit of a hypocrite for all the times that I gripe about some really bad big budget American films being made up of some good scenes but too flawed to be worth watching.) I'm a bit of a sucker for that kind of thing though, especially in Korean cinema, and this film has some really fun scenes and such a gleeful attitude at times that I do enjoy it despite its many flaws.

Part of the film's humor is found in the unreliable narration by Won Bin's character, who is arguably the most immature of the group and occasionally has trouble expressing himself when speaking to the audience. What his character perceives and reports is sometimes different from what we are shown on the screen. This is particularly evident in one humorous scene where he is describing to viewers the outcome of a monologue he delivers about love to break up a fight between two other members of the group. While he describes the others as being moved to tears by his statements, in reality they are shaking with laughter at him, but have their backs turned so that he can't see it. Another major humor vehicle for the film is Jung-woo's impulsive actions and how easily the character is thrown off balance by the woman he is assigned to kill. While not exactly bumbling fools, the group does make their share of mistakes in the film, which is also amusing to varying degrees.

In my opinion, most of Guns and Talks features pretty typical lighting and cinematography, but it does have a few stylish shots up its sleeve. The scene in the opera house late in the film is particularly fun to watch, although again asks for a good deal of suspension of belief by viewers. There are occasional split screen shots to show montages of actions by characters in the film, that I generally find a bit distracting to watch although the specific scene featuring a brief home invasion wraps up rather nicely. There are also several nice little cinematic touches to some scenes that would otherwise be far more typical and boring to watch.

This is the third full length feature by director Jang Jin, who also wrote the film. I was rather surprised to discover in doing my research for this review that I was more familiar with Jang Jin than I thought I was. Of his other directorial work, I've also seen 2005's Murder, Take One (also starring Shin Ha-Kyun and Jeong Jae-Yeong), and 2006's Righteous Ties (again starring Jeong Jae-Yeong.) In addition, Jang Jin wrote the play for Welcome to Dongmakgol (the film version of which I can not recommend highly enough), the screenplays for The Man Who Went To Mars, and Public Enemy 3, among others. (It's interesting to see how many of these actors and directors worked together multiple times, I skipped over mentioning many other times they have crossed paths in writing this review, but if anyone is curious about it, feel free to ask.

Should you watch this film? That's up to you to decide. It has many flaws, not the least of which is how the film just seems to randomly culminate in an out-of-nowhere happily ever after style ending that leaves viewers scratching their heads. The script could also have used some more work, for certain. I get the feeling that maybe they had a few ideas for interesting scenes and then wrote the story around that, or something similar. Personally, I've watched it a few times now and do recommend that people give it a look as long as they don't expect a lot from the film. I do a bit of eye-rolling at times, of course, but I do like the film. Shin Ha-Kyun is always great to watch, and his presence alone makes the film a must see for me. Jeong Jae-Young is another favorite of mine who I think is perhaps, under appreciated by Western audiences. It's also interesting to see Won Bin's first major film acting role. Bin does a serviceable job in this film, and in my opinion he's continually improved with each role he taken on since.

English subtitled trailer, but image and sound quality is lacking.

There is better image quality on this trailer, but no English subtitles.

Thanks for reading. Comments are always welcome. =)


  1. I really liked this movie. Parts of the film were typical assassin scenes but what draws you are the unexpected parts of the film. I initially watched it because of Won Bin, but ended up liking the character of the eldest brother best. Mainly because his character was the funniest! It may be because I was expecting this movie to be a typical assasin movie but instead ended up with a comedy film.

    Sang-yeon's character was really unexpected because he seemed to be coolest and most mature among the 4 but he still succumbed to the stupidity of being head over heels over a woman. :)

  2. Hi Naomi, thanks for commenting. =)
    Have you seen "Kiss Me Kill Me"? It's another assassin-falls-for-girl kind of film with Shin Hyeon-Jun as the lead, alongside of Kang Hye-Jeong who played the crazy girl in "Welcome To Dongmakgol". It wasn't bad, you might like it.

  3. Hi heavenz, I'm not really into assassin-falls-for-girl-films hehehe :) I really just found this one funny. One of my fave scenes was when Sang-yeon was about to hand the bomb to the target. Hahaha! I don't know what he was thinking when he refused to hand over the "change" and the target kept reaching for it! :)) Thanks for the suggestion anyway, I'll add it to my list of movies to watch :)

  4. I really enjoyed this film for its zaniness, although some parts toward the end are a bit confusing. For instance, the scene where the oldest brother confronts the cop at the police station - can anyone figure out why the policeman decided *pointedly* to let him go instead of arresting him? Throughout the whole film, the cop seems like someone extremely driven by a sense of justice. And here's a known criminal coming to hand himself in and he refuses the opportunity. Did the cop find absolution when he shot him instead of handcuffing him in an earlier scene? Anyone with ideas on this?