Okay Madam (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A woman with a particular set of skills

South Korean comedy action film “Okay Madam” flies all the way for our entertainment, and I appreciate that even while recognizing how silly and preposterous it actually is in many aspects. Sure, it is often a bit too goofy for my taste, but it diligently delivers laughs and thrills at least, and it is also held together well by the game efforts from its engaging lead actress and various colorful performers surrounding her.

During the first act, the movie quickly establishes the loving marital relationship between Mi-yeong (Uhm Jung-hwa) and her husband Seok-hwan (Park Sung-woong). Although they have frequently struggled a lot with their rather poor financial situation during last several years, Mi-yeong has enthusiastically run her little fried dough shop at a local marketplace, and Seok-hwan has gladly supported her a lot while also running a modest computer repair shop for himself. Their daily income is still barely enough to support them and their little daughter, but Mi-yeong keeps her spirit high nonetheless, and Seok-hwan does not have any problem at all in accepting her feisty personality.

And then a little but significant change comes into their life on one day. When Mi-yeong casually opens one of the energy drink bottles belonging to her husband, she is surprised to find that she has just won the first prize of an lottery involved with that energy drink product, and the prize turns out to be a free family trip to Hawaii. At first, Mi-yeong is not so eager to go to Hawaii because she thinks she is too busy for that, but she eventually changes her mind after coming to realize how much her daughter has wished to travel outside, and she and her family are soon on the way to the airport while congratulated by their dear market neighbors.

Around the time when Mi-yeong and her family hurriedly arrive the airport, everything looks fine on the surface, but then we see a bunch of North Korean secret agents preparing to get on the same airplane where Mi-yeong and her family are about to go on board. These North Korean guys are ordered to capture a certain rogue agent who has been hiding from them for several years, and, yes, that agent in question is one of the passengers in the airplane.

However, their target turns out to be quite more elusive than expected, so they decide to take a drastic action earlier than planned, and they quickly take over the airplane with the guns and other weapons they somehow managed to take into the airplane. Seriously, I do not know how the hell that is possible, considering how strict airport security has been around the world since 9/11, but the movie is not a serious hijacking drama from the beginning, so I guess I should not wonder whether the premise is plausible or not.

What follows after this narrative point is a farcical cross between “Die Hard” (1988), “Executive Decision” (1996), and, yes, “Airport” (1970). While Mi-yeong and Seok-hwan turn to be the ones who may save the day in the end for good reasons, we also get to know several different folks including 1) an uptight chief flight attendant who is later revealed to be quite close to one of the crew members, 2) a bumbling flight attendant who becomes an unlikely ally to Mi-yeong and Seok-hwan, 3) a pregnant woman who is accompanied with her fastidious mother-in-law, 4) an avuncular middle-aged dude who is going to Hawaii for meeting his family, 5) an obnoxious congressman who unwisely tries to deal with the North Korean agents, and 6) an apparently suspicious woman who does not say much while wearing a mask on her face.

Now some of you have already guessed where the story is heading, but the movie constantly entertains us as swinging back and forth between comedy and action. Although many of supporting characters in the film are broad stereotypes, they are efficiently utilized for unexpected moments to amuse or surprise us, and I particularly enjoyed a running gag involved with a certain passenger quite oblivious to the ongoing emergency due to his overdosed status.

During the expected climactic part, the screenplay by Shin Hyun-sung becomes a little too shaky as briskly going through several plot turns, but the movie is still kept floated in the air thanks to director Lee Cheol-ha’s competent direction and the spirited performance from Um Jung-hwa, who is surely having a ball here as an irrepressible woman with a particular set of skills. While looking convincing in several key physical action scenes, Um skillfully handles a number of nice comic moments, and I also like how she and Park Sung-woong bring some sincerity and gravitas to their likable characters. In case of the other main cast members including Bae Jung-nam, Lee Sang-woon, and Lee Sun-bin, they are suitably cast in their respective supporting roles, and the special mention goes to young performer Jung Soo-bin, who holds her own small place well as a girl who clearly resembles her mother more than one aspect.

Overall, “Okay Madam” is more hilarious and exciting than I thought at first, and I must confess that it considerably energized me shortly after I endured another recent South Korean film “Deliver Us From Evil” (2019). Unlike that bland and lifeless action thriller film, “Okay Madam” is brimming with spirit and personality, and I assure you that you will walk out of the screening as joyously remembering its many funny moments.

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