Thursday, November 30, 2006

Vampire Cop Ricky – review


Directed by: Si-myung Lee

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

This Korean film shares much, in a heritage sense, with Hong Kong movies and is a real mix of film genres. Obviously it is a vampire movie but it is also a martial arts movie, with romance and comedy. You can also add into the mix a cop/buddy movie and, to be honest, a touch of the superhero movie.

The Transylvanian vampireThe film begins in Transylvania at a very gothic looking castle, the camera swoops through the decrepit, cobweb festooned halls, past statues and gargoyles until it reaches a coffin. The lid opens and a vampire arises.

We see the vampirevampire mosquito then from a strange viewpoint and then realise it is the viewpoint of a mosquito that swoops down and bites the vampire. It avoids being squished and transforms into a supernaturally vampiric mosquito and, to the vampire’s enraged cries, flies out of the castle and straight into the windshield of a passing jet, which drags it along on its journey.

In Seoul a group of cops are getting ready to raid a cyber-gambling ring. One of the cops, Do-Yul (Su-ro Kim), is eager to get to the criminals and is being somewhat macho. Do-Yul is the Ricky of the title; I guess they used the name Ricky to make the film more commercially acceptable in the West.

When they get to the gambling den it is empty – someone has tipped the bad guys off.

We cut to the airport. The mosquito, none the worse for wear, flies off the windshield of the plane and gets stuck in the back of a DHL van.

In a karaoke bar Tack (Byung-ho Son), the head criminal of the film, is celebrating with the bent cop who tipped him off. It is Do-Yul, money exchanges hands.

Yeo-Jeong Jo as Yeon-heeDo-Yul picks up his girlfriend, Yeon-hee (Yeo-Jeong Jo), at the lingerie shop in which she works and drives her to a look-out point type place above the cityscape. He is somewhat amorous but she is having none of it. Later we seeing him driving alone and almost causing a crash with the DHL van. Whilst arguing with the driver another DHL worker checks the contents of the van and the mosquito escapes. It bites Do-Yul who then squashes the bug. Now, a little plot error rears its head here. The bug survived crashing into a jumbo jet in flight – presumably because of its new vampiric nature – and yet a man could squash it by hand. We’ll overlook that, however, as it is, in truth, a minor thing.

Do-Yul starts acting strangely but gets himself home. In his sleep he dreams of the Transylvanian castle. When morning breaks he does not awaken but simply pulls his foot out of the sunlight – though early in the movie sunlight is not a major issue for our fledgling vampire.

When night falls Oh my God, I'm a vampireagain he awakens and his erection has caused a tent effect in his boxer shorts. Now this may seem gratuitous but it really isn’t – I’ll explain soon. But, before I do let me mention that he goes to the bathroom and, in the mirror, notices that his eyes are yellow and he has fangs. He screams, ducks from the mirror and when he looks again his features are back to normal.

The erection is part of the on-running gag through the movie. Do-Yul vamps out for two reasons, we eventually discover. Great anger causes it but, more commonly, the source of his vampirism is sexual arousal or as he later explains, “I turn into a vampire every time I get hard.” Back to the plot…

DNot the way to treat a crime sceneo-Yul goes to work and arrives at a murder scene. He explains to his boss, Inspector Kang (Ho-Jin Jeon), that he had not felt well, which is why he did not show up during the day. He does not see the face of the victim but, as the corpse is wheeled past him an arm falls from beneath a sheet and starts spilling blood which he catches in his hands but then lets drain away. Finding himself alone by the blood-soaked bed he can’t help himself and is on the floor lapping the blood up when Kang returns. Perhaps Kang would have mentioned his bloody mouth until he realises that Do-Yul has found the murder weapon also.

Essentially, at this point Do-Yul realises that he is a vampire. After nearly biting Yeon-hee he goes to confession Kwang-rok Oh as the vampire hunter(being in a church it becomes apparent that he can stand religious icons and enter hallowed ground) and tells the priest what he is. The priest calls a vampire hunter (Kwang-rok Oh) who at first wishes to kill him but, when he discovers that Do-Yul is not a full vampire, decides to help him become human again. Of course the murder was committed on Tack’s order and Do-Yul’s complicity comes to light.

The film then follows Do-Yul trying to redeem himself, not because of his vampirism but to make amends for his corrupt ways.

The vampirism seems to follow some of the standard rules. As a newly infected vampire, he only vamps out as described above. He likes to sleep through the day but sunlight is not a killer. He does heal rather quickly. However he is killed later on and revived by the hunter, through the hunter’s blood. At that point he can walk on ceilings and sunlight burns. When angry the eyes turn redWhen he vamps he is quicker and stronger than a human and develops martial arts skills. The hunter tells him that if he drinks blood one more time he will never be able to revert to human. We can also note that most of the time, when he vamps, his eyes turn yellow. However, if the transformation is caused by anger they turn red.

The seaside-postcard comedy works rather well. One particular scene stands out. unusual way to vamp outDo-Yul is raiding a drugs den. Before he goes in he nips in the toilet to watch some porn on a hand-held video (amusingly the breasts of the girl are pixilated for our benefit). When he leaves the place he is attacked and tries to watch the porn again (whilst on the run) but drops and breaks his machine. He sees a girl up ahead and chases after her. She bends over, giving us an up-skirt shot and he vamps out. Then she turns around and she is incredibly unattractive (potentially even male) and he losses his ardour and thus his vampiric traits.

The comedy also takes in slapstick elements that are reminiscent of the Hong Kong movie scene. In fact, if I didn’t know this was a Korean movie I’d swear blind it was a Hong Kong movie.

The film looks luscious and it is clear that a decent amount of money was spent on production. The various genre elements work well together and mean that you are never bored.

The actors all perform well, although the English subtitles on the Hong Kong DVD I have are a little too literal and detract slightly – this needs a proper translation producing.

What is really nice, and somewhat unusual, is that this is ultimately a film about redemption. This is unusual because the vampirism is the path to redemption, not the thing to be redeemed. The vampire, in this, is the hero of the piece. When Do-Yul was human he was without morals. He was a letch and, because of his new sexualat heart a superhero movie lurks reactions, he has to control his baser instincts (in quite a nice moment the Hunter suggests that if he canot control his sexual urges he should cut it off). He was also a bent cop; the vampirism allows him to make amends for his criminal ways. This also takes the movie down a super-hero route with Do-Yul actually wearing a mask when he vamps and making an exclamation at one point about super powers.

All in all this is an excellent, genre busting movie that has obvious openings for a sequel. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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