Save the Green Planet

Save the Green Planet

No, SAVE THE GREEN PLANET is not a documentary on the subject of global warming. Neither is it the latest Manga to take Japan by storm (it's a Korean live action film) as the DVD's cartoony menu screen might suggest. In fact, it's a very hard film to pin down. Excessively so.

Most of these factors revolve around director Jun-hwan Jeong's excessive eagerness to impress the viewer, by bombarding us with set piece after set piece, twist after twist, and detour after detour in mood and tone: sci-fi, farce, martial arts, Oedipal drama, tragedy, and so on. Although just shy of two hours long, it is an exhausting film that feels like well over three.

Nerdy conspiracy freak Byung-goo (Shin Ha-Kyun), who believes that aliens are among us, decides to kidnap a man whom he believes to be not of this planet. Living on a mountain with his munchkin girlfriend, tightrope walker Sooni, he whisks of drunken industrialist Kang Man-Shik (Baek-Yun Shik) to his remote hideaway with the intentions of saving the world.

Distraught at the death of his mother and harbouring ridiculous martial arts fantasies, Byung-goo is an unreliable narrative agent whose outlandish pills are hard to swallow. Following through with his vision, he ties Kang to a chair and subjects him to a series of seemingly eccentric mutilations that will prevent his psychic powers from kicking in - cutting his hair, and scraping the skin off his feet and rubbing them with stinging menthol spray.

Arriving on the scene of the kidnapping, private detective Chu decides to use his notorious investigative instincts to catch the culprit. Kicked off the force for a bribery charge he didn't commit, detective Chu is reviled by his former colleagues but revered by some, who see him as a cult figure - he solved the "petrol station murders" by smelling a trail of shit.

Following his leads, the detective stumbles onto a horrific game of cat-and-mouse between Byung-goo and Kang, as well as a beehive, a pot of honey, and maybe even some real aliens.

Using a visual style comparable to the love him or hate him figure that is Terry Gilliam, with bold foreground framing, off kilter compositions, as well as juxtapositions of the high tech and the archaic, director Jun-hwan Jeong puts across some simply extraordinary images but this glittering but gimmicky shell is not matched by a quality centre to bite on.

Despite the fights, chases, explosions, there simply doesn't seem to be enough reason for them to exist. The way they are piled up against one another, and the glaring discrepancy in mood will numb many a viewer. They come across as entirely arbitrary - little more than a showcase for an exhibitionist filmmaker - and in all truth could have helped to flesh out at least three different pictures.

Sporting some ridiculously contorted facial expressions, Byung-goo just seems too dumb and too over-the-top, and the narrative "excuse" - or justification - for his actions of torture and degradation hark back to that old chestnut, the mother fixation, to go with the old alien invasion favourite; and it needs to be stated that these two separate strands are grafted together very awkwardly indeed.

Greasy old detective Chu is a convincingly seasoned gumshoe, but overdoes the beady eyes, and Sooni not only annoys when playing with the Barbie dolls but also the BLADE RUNNER rip-off "clamped thigh" attack. Many viewers would be well advised to go back to that rain-slicked noir for its brooding dystopia, and for my money I'd rather be trapped between Daryl Hannah's legs.

The commentary track is in Korean with optional English and Korean subtitles, so unlike, say, the region 1 Synapse release of EVIL DEAD TRAP, it is not marred by principles speaking in broken English - an obvious advantage for Anglo viewers. The Behind The Scenes feature goes through almost every facet of the making of the film, and is an excellent wellspring of information for those eager to learn more about the film. The film is long enough without having to sit through deleted scenes, Lazy Mirror is an odd little animated short and finally we are treated to behind the scenes interviews in what truly constitutes a Special Edition.

Review by Matthew Sanderson

Released by Tartan
Extras :
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