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Angry Vampires

Posted February. 10, 2006 07:01,   


Let’s get this straight. The movie “Vampire Cop” is not what you’d expect. It’s about 40 degrees off from what you’re imagining, with less laughter and more seriousness.

What makes this movie so disconcerting is that there’s a disparity between what viewers want Kim Su-ro to be, and what he himself aspires to be. So it’s not that the movie can’t make you laugh, it’s that it won’t.

Here’s the gist of the story: Na Do-yeol, played by Kim Su-ro, transforms into a vampire only when he’s angry or aroused. One day, a cop named Kang (Cheon Ho-jin) who’s been a brother to Na, is struck down by villain Tak Moon-su (Sohn Byeong-ho). Tak has been working for Na to stay undercover. Conflicted, Na decides to go for revenge, but is stopped in his tracks by a bounty hunter (Oh Gwang-rok).

Who is Kim Su-ro? He is an actor who has made people laugh in numerous movies like, “Attack the Gas Station”; “The Foul King”; “Volcano High School”; “S Diaries” and “The Super Family.” He’s in the limelight now for the first time in thirteen years, ever since his image hardened as a supporting actor who takes the lead. The audience is probably demanding from Kim: “Make me laugh!”

Let’s take a look at Kim, and what he wants. Kim debuted in the 1993 movie “Two Cops” and has since become a reliable supporting actor. He can do more than comedy, as evident in “The Last Witness,” “Taegukgi,” and “Lovely Week,” but the audience likes Kim as a comedian actor. So the assignment was for him to live up to his audience’s expectations, but still show new potential.

That’s where the problem is: moviegoers want to laugh at the sight of his face, but Kim doesn’t want to be the slapstick actor.

The hero of the movie is more of the Hulk-type, rather than a traditional vampire, because when he’s excited his superpowers apprehend villains. This image is more suited to an introspective Blade, Batman, Spiderman, and Daredevil-type characters, not a bright and comical one.

The laughing begins in the middle, where Na continues watching pornography in order to keep his blood-sucking superpowers at the ready. The superb acting from Sohn takes cruelty to a new level, while Kim’s ad libbing skills are as slick as ever.

But “Vampire Cop” is unable to find chemistry with its dual comic vampire and dramatic, tear-jerking cop revenge plots. Drama and comedy are built up into a flimsy shack, not the sophisticated house it should have built our emotions into.

Starting with an idea of vampire cops getting into trouble, the movie tries to move into the field of conflicted heroes, but due to a lack of creativity and meticulous plotting, it fails to do so. Each scene is out of tune with the preceding one, and the overwhelming sense of tragedy is quite irrelevant.

It’s harder than you think for an actor to leave the image that launched his career behind. Kim Su-ro’s next movie, “2009 Lost Memories” (directed by Lee Shi-myeong) will be worth waiting for.

“Vampire Cop” is in theaters now and is rated for ages 15 and up.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com