I once said in one of my reviews for Korean movies that 2010 was a good year for South Korean movies because of those wonderful movies made by talented directors. And I also pointed out that we had a considerable amount of bad movies along with those good movies. First, there was a morally reprehensible film “No Mercy”, in which the women characters were no more than the objects for being raped, beaten, insulted, killed, hacked, and autopsied. In “Outlaw”, I cannot ever forget a naked woman crawling on the floor with a dog collar on her neck. In “Parallel Life” and “The Haunted House Project”, they did almost nothing except presenting the idea at the start. And “Natalie”, a 3D softcore movie, is something so ridiculous and inane that I could not help but have many unintentional laughs.
“The Last Godfather”, released in this week in South Korean theaters, is not as horrible as some of thess garbages, but Shim Hyung-rae’s so-called “family comedy movie” adds the final insult to the list for the worst Korean movies of 2010. It is not just unfunny. It is embarrassingly unfunny and torturously boring. To be frank with you, I observed that some audiences laughed several times while I and they were watching the movies, but I want to ask you this: how much can you tolerate more than 100 minutes with an imbecile character keeping doing idiotic things for getting laughs without any story development or setup for a real big laugh? Can you call this a joyful experience? Do you think laughing at a idiot is a good comedy?
I know most of my readers were not in South Korea during the 1980-90s, so I give you some background information about Shim Hyung-rae. He had been a very popular comedian on South Korean TV during that period, and some of his sketches on TV shows during his prime were funny indeed. One of his popular characters was “Young-gu”, an idiot with a good heart. I did not particularly liked that character. I remember watching the movies featuring that character, and I did not find them funny; I was far more entertained by Disney TV Cartoons and Sesame Street.
After his weirdly and obscenely gigantic financial hit(or was it?) with “D-war”, the worst South Korean movie of that year, Shim Hyung-rae decided to make the movie based on Young-gu. In the interview, he confidently said he made the comedy that can be accepted worldwide, but I seriously want to ask him what he was thinking when he made “The Last Godfather”. He did absolutely nothing to provide flesh and bone to the caricature he has been proud of and many Koreans still endearingly remember. His characters and accompanying jokes and gags are not only badly dated but also seriously ineffective. Watching the movie is like observing a bad comedy based on a lame character created more than 20 years ago in Saturday Night Live.
The screenplay, written by Shim Hyung-rea and other screenwriters purchased from Hollywood, has little plausibility or probability. I have lots of doubts about whether you can accept the premise in the story though you can do anything preposterous in the name of comedy. Can you believe that New York mob boss, played by Harvey Keitel(!), thinks his hidden illegimate son can be his successor while it is apparent to nearly everyone that he is indeed “a special child”?
Let me go into details about how Harvey Keitel has a Korean son in the movie. The year is 1951, and Don Carini(Keitel) reveals to his men that he had a relationship with a Korean woman a long time ago when he hid in Korea for his safety. They had a son, and now he, named Young-gu, of course, becomes a young man who Carini thinks is ready for being boss. He is played by none other than Shim Hyung-rae, who is 52 now. Considering that Korea was suffering from the war in 1951, maybe his aged appearance is not a big stretch at all. War makes young man look aged, you know.
The rest of the story, if such a thing exists in the movie, is the series of lousy gags with the obligatory shootout finale between rival gangsters in the end(My god, is it really a family movie, Mr. Shim?). The movie tries many, many times, but it always fails with no laugh every time for only predictable things happen on the screen. They are mostly for pulling cheap, brief laughs from the audiences, and there is no effective build-up process in any scenes. I remember one scene where the characters are about to be attacked by a round bomb thrown by a villain hiding in the bushes nearby while they are playing with balls on the lawn. You won’t need much time to guess what will eventually happen.
I am sick of telling this, but I have to say that Shim Hyung-rae proves again that he is seriously in the need of attending filmmaking class or re-attending comedy class. His movie shows a dire lack of story/character development as well as a clear deficiency of skills and styles. I could not ignore many notable editing problems. For instance, the scene inexplicably featuring South Korean pop singer group Wondergirls is a textbook example of lousy editing; are the girls and the characters really in the same place? And why do they sing the 21th century South Korean pop song when they have to be lounge singers in the 1950s? I am not against anachronism in the movie, but this is too jarring. What the hell, only two or three policemen seem to exist in the town in this movie, and I dully noted that this was the only movie I’ve ever watched a police chief driving a red convertible while on his duty.
I do not want to waste much time on criticizing Shim Hyung-rae’s horrendous one-note performance, sheer embarrassment reminiscent of Simple Jack in “Tropic Thunder”. No matter how much he tried at the set, his character is not someone you can approach to with smile. It is one thing to laugh at an idiot for a moment, and it is the other thing to be forced to laugh at an idiot for more than an hour. I feel really sorry about the Hollywood actors surrounding him instead because they have nothing to do except reacting to or watching cheap slapsticks. I hope each of them got a nice, big paycheck for appearing in this criminally silly movie. I know the actors like John Polito or Jason Mewes have built solid acting careers before this movie; they will move on after this ordeal. In case of Joceline Donahue, who gets a very bland and thankless job as Young-gu’s love interest, I saw her talent in that nice little horror movie “The House of the Devil” in last year, so I hope a better future for her.
And how did a respected actor like Harvey Keitel come to accept the role in this movie? Shim Hyung-rae said that Keitel wanted to be in the movie for his young son, but, Mr. Keitel, do you think the movie with the scene of two characters mistaken for having a rough sex in the car is really good for your kid, besides that shootout scene and gross gags? At least, he does not do anything damaging to his illustrious career of more than 40 years while phoning his performance in the movie.
By the way, after watching his movie, I checked Keitel’s career at IMDB and found that his unofficial first movie was “Reflections in a Golden Eye”. Now, there is another connection between Robert Foster and Keitel. Both started their career with that movie, both got an Academy nomination for Best supporting actor in the 1990s, and now, because Foster played a crucial supporting role in “D-war”, both have worked with the South Korean counterpart of Uwe Ball. I heard that, before casting Keitel, Shim Hyung-rae initially attempted to insert CGI images of late Marlon Brando in his movie, who also appeared in “Reflections in a Golden Eye”. Does that mean he will get Elizabeth Talyor for his next movie?
The movie has fearfully misguided belief that you will make a good movie even if you have nothing but money to hire actors and crews. Shim Hyung-rae says he is doing his best while making movies. Well, every director does his best for his/her movies. Many of them learn from failures or criticisms, but, mired in his pathetic egotism, he does not seem to learn anything from tons of criticisms he has gotten. He only makes excuses so lame that we cannot even start the discussion sensibly from the beginning. His tactic to draw people on his side sadly reminds me of that of people like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck; by advertising his movie like a one giant footstep for all Koreans, he shamelessly exploited patriotism and nationalism for his own benefits. Because of that, “D-war” became No.1 box office hit in South Korea, while many critics were attacked on Internet for their negative opinions. And now he impertinently tries that disgusting tactic again. As usual, he tries to fool us that his movie will be a big international hit and we will be proud of it, and I think the movie will probably have some success in South Korea again.
Mr. Shim, I have to say this, your movie hopelessly and truly sucks. I also want to point out that we already have internationally acclaimed South Korean directors; we don’t particularly need you at all. No, I correct that; it is almost inarguable that you are national disgrace. If you didn’t lie about yourself, then I guess you are very, very determined to conquer Hollywood with the quixotic mind resembling a living fossil, which makes you nothing but a laughingstock. No matter how much you “argue” against that, that will be still the truth unless you change your incorrigible view. To think that Uwe Ball was the worst director – I heard that Ball was improving on himself, by the way.
Footnote: My star rating system is a mix of Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin. BOMB, which means 1 star, is for sheer incompetency and “The Last Godfather” is a prime example. Zero star is the place reserved for evil or despicable movies beyond star rating.
Yeah, D-War was awful. Won’t be going to see this, then.
Scoffing at the plot of a slapstick comedy is missing the point…
Let me guess, you don’t like comedy in general, specifically slapstick and especially Hyung-Rae Shim style slapstick, right?
And you haven’t really watched or like Charlie Chaplin either, I presume? 😛
SC: Yes, I have watched many works of Buster Keaton as well as Charlie Chaplin. Their comedies are timeless, and I admire and love them. Comparing Shim Hyung-Rae to these masters of physical comedies needs a lot of imagination and conjectures. They have something far more than slapsticks.
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Note, that I did not compare Shim to Chaplin.. 🙂
I mentioned Chaplin because Shim are both masters of slapstick comedy, and I felt from your review that you had a deep disdain for slapstick comedy in itself. Certainly, Chaplin was a much better actor and filmmaker, and his movies possessed qualities that Shim does not have. Furthermore, Chaplin was a pioneer of film and comedy well preceeding Shim’s time, and to compare these two people as filmmakers or actors would be silly.
However, if you truly “admire and love” Chaplin you should not belittle his art of slapstick. Slapstick was Chaplin’s bread-and-butter, his legacy, and while slapstick wasn’t all that he had to offer, Chaplin without slapstick is not Chaplin at all.
Shim is a master of slapstick by his own right, and you should not belittle the man for what he does in this movie, which really is not so fundamentally different from what Chaplin did as the little tramp.
SC: I’m not against slapstick. I’m against the pointless, ineffectual series of bad ones. Maybe Shim is a master of slapstick by “his own right” as you said, but his slapsticks are embarrassingly out of touch. And he even does not know how to present them on the screen.
Well, it is ’80s Korean slapstick comedy.. not everyone’s cup of tea, and perhaps not even the general international audience, but there will be a niche of viewers that do like it. Most Koreans would not find Chris Rock or Jon Stewart very entertaining, because they would not understand or appreciate American humor. In contrast, a good percentage of Koreans currently below the age of 10 or above the age of 30 will find Shim’s slapsticks in this movie entertaining.
To me personally something like Tropic Thunder is more funny than The Last Godfather, but my mother did not think Tropic Thunder was funny at all–it wasn’t her cup of tea, and I think she’ll be better entertained by this movie.
SC: But didn’t he said that his movie can be accepted worldwide? At least, both of us can agree that “Tropic Thunder” is a far funnier movie – can we agree on that Shim was in “full retard” mode in his movie?
Younggu is always in full retard mode…!
I actually talked about that with my little bro a few weeks ago.. I still like it a lot better than Simple Jack though.. :p
SC: I’m happy to see that we agree on another thing. Although our opinions are different, I hope we will be able to talk about other movies in more pleasant situation.
Nice chatting with you.. maybe there will be a Les Grossman movie in a few years.. 🙂
I saw this film the other day and I wanted to die during every moment. Great review. Spot on!
SC: While watching “D-War”, I was so embarrassed that I wanted to hang myself.
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This is one of the best reviews that I have ever seen. I really enjoy some Korean directors and it is nice to know which movies to avoid.
SC: Fortunately, bad ones rarely get out of our country, so don’t worry.
Hi, I’m private internet site movie reviewer in Korea. I want to quotate your review post. Will allow a reference in me?
SC: Sure, I won’t mind about that.
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The movie would have been much better if:
1) Shim’s character had been played by someone who actually is half-white and half-Asian (such as the Korean drummer/hotel manager David Byron…I forgot his Korean name).
) Like you say, Shim hadn’t played a total idiot throughout the entire film…Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler etc. also have played slapstick idiots, but they at least combine it with some intelligent dialogue and wit.
3) The silly anachronisms (like the appearance of the Woner Girls) had been left out.
4) They might have even scrapped the whole comedy angle, and just made it into a serious gangster film, with some dark humor a la Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, etc…that is, Tarantino style. Of course, then it would have had an “R” rating….in that case, it could have been toned down a bit to a “15” or “PG” rating.
SC: Very good suggestions!
SC: maybe somone could yet make a Korean film along the lines of what I’ve suggested above…one would need a director other than Mr. Shim, of course.
By the way, have you seen the film “Crank 2: High Voltage”? I just saw it on DVD last night…how would you rate it? I was tempted to give it zero stars, but some of it was so incredibly stupid, that it actually made me laugh here and there, more than “The Last Godfather” (of course, “Crank 2” is a purely adult film). So, I’d give it just 1 star.
SC: I have not watched it yet. But I bet the guys who made it know more about how to make a film than Mr. Shim.
I wholeheartedly agree with most of your points, so I read through your entire review. Yet, something feels so……………….wrong. Like I’m being misled somehow.
Grasping deeper, it seems like you’re an intelligent guy with fair taste for film – hence the good readability in about 50% of your review – but your tendency to use overly strong modifiers in just about every single sentence really endangers your credibility. I feel like if I knew you IRL, you’d tell me you saw “a microscopic kitten” when you actually saw “a small kitten” or even “the tiniest kitten ever” just so that I’d notice what you’re saying more.
On Shim Hyung Rae, I agree with you completely that the guy’s fooling himself and his millions of brain-dead supporters by calling himself a true director. He just doesn’t have any talent in that department.
Nonetheless, the guy’s also a freaking genius like no other and it doesn’t matter that he’s the crappiest director ever. You call him a national disgrace, but how many Korean directors have actually succeeded in casting prominent Hollywood actors, and to star in utterly crappy movies at that? Not only once, but twice! The guy even succeeded in making a hefty profit out of crap like D-War, and single-handedly introduced Korean dragon folklore to an international audience with that piece of crap as well. If he keeps this up, he’s going to cast Tom Cruise as Younggu’s son and make a billion dollars off a 2D slapstick version of Avatar while persuading dog lovers that boshintang is their favorite stew.
SC: That will be something really horrible to watch – like this film
Mitsu: that is what is so unfortunate. Both D-War and the Last Godfather could have been great films, and made lots of money, instead of being crappy films that only did well in Korea.
Shut up! Seriously if you didn’t like it suck it up, and oh maybe you’d like to fix your grammar? No one with a life cares about your freaking opinion. This is a comedy film made not just for you but for all the viewers, if your not satisfied that doesn’t matter. There has to be a large percent who dislikes. So BOO FUCKING HOO. Deal with it. Also it doesn’t really matter about the asian character, half white and half english? If you go into specifics it should also be someone younger then the godfather character. It’s part of the joke, now if you stop sucking the fun out of a movie and whining like a 10 year old, maybe just maybe, you’d have a life.
SC: How gracefully you tell the writer to mind his own business. By the way, I have a job, and a life, Sir.
Anyway, congratulations for contributing the 200th comment to my blog.
Holy S”#”#T! There are very few occasions I can´t stand a movie and leave the theater or turn off the TV and DVD player but “The last godfather” was one of those rare occasions. Seriously, I like Slap Stick,: I love Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Leslie Nelson´s “The naked gun” series, I like Farrelly brothers films and their politically incorrect humor like “Dumb and Dumber”, “There´s something about Mary” and “The heartbreak kid”, even Rowan Atkinson´s character “Mr Bean” and Jim Carrey are way more funny! Maybe this asshole of the director thought his bad “slap stick” was funny; yeah, funny to him self but this movie is so auto indulgence, so stupid that´s even his character is annoying! He thought just by playing a retarded or by playing a fart sound the audience would laugh. Jeez, I don´t ask another “Old boy” or “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”, I don´t ask another Chaplin or Harold Lloyd because nobody could imitate or overpass them, but Mr. Shim is really a disgrace for the movie industry of his country.
Nice review and yes, this movie really made me piss off, the only pro is I watched it but in a DVD-R disc.
Greetings grom Chile
SC: A year has passed, but the movie remains as one of the worst films I have ever watched.
There´re some flicks that work if you turn off the brain or if you have low expectations; this piece of crap doesn´t work even with both factors.
SC: I still shudder whenever I recall how awful it was.