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Save The Green Planet (2004)
Writer and director: Jeong Jun-hwan

review by Steven Hampton
Spoiler Alert!
The DVD box artwork of this crazy Korean black-comedy SF is proudly adorned with The Times' critical assessment: "as bonkers as anything" and, of course, it's hard not to admire the sheer nerve of such promo 'spin' tactics (Yeah, let's appeal to the cracked hardcore of cult-movie fanboys). Yet, for all its satisfyingly bizarre plot twists, moments of dreadfully sick-minded hilarity, and scenes of intentionally controversial violence, this po-faced mix of themes reminiscent of films by Terry Gilliam, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and Alex Cox does seem a little contrived when it comes to off-the-wall macabre humour.

Suspecting that ruthless industrialist Chairman Kang (Paek Yun-sik) might be an alien from Andromeda, Byung-Gu (Shin Ha-kyun) kidnaps him and plans to extract a confession with some weird torture techniques, in order to prevent the wicked aliens from invading Earth. Aided by his supportive but apparently retarded girlfriend Sooni (Hwang Jeong-min, in her film debut) - who eventually runs away to become a tightrope walker in the local circus, Byung-Gu sets about his inquisitional task with gusto, and he perseveres despite his captive's frequent and painfully loud exclamations of innocence in the matters of interplanetary conquest, or extraterrestrial origin. Byung-Gu's singular opponent is unorthodox cop Shoo (Lee Jae-yong), who has a nose for a good mystery, and detecting criminals, and he's the one who uncovers the truth about Byung-Gu's past.

The fact is that our hero is a serial killer. Yes, despite being engagingly sympathetic, he's the man who's mercilessly tortured - perhaps dozens of - people to death, because he believes they have put his mother into a coma, and are plotting to takeover the world. Not since the days of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange has such a dazzling volte-face been forced upon drama audiences. Veering, in a slightly uneasy but determined fashion, between the axe-grinding wheels of camp farce and wholly unrelenting horror, Save The Green Planet offers tremendous sci-fi lunacy with enough bravura shocks and hidden messages (watch for the wondrous 2001 homage) to please the most demanding genre viewer. Manic intensity gives way to bittersweet irony, and so the tensions of Byung-Gu and Kang's psychological and brutally physical struggle slowly build up... towards an astonishing climax where imaginative pulp-styled CGI visuals embellish the narrative's final sequence, without overwhelming its powerfully emotional impact. Forget the pessimism of Apocalypse, here's 'Euphoria Now' for UFOlogists.

The double-disc Region 2 special edition DVD from Tartan Asia Extreme presents its main feature in anamorphic (widescreen ratio 1.85:1), with a choice of Dolby digital 2.0 / 5.1 surround / DTS 5.1 surround soundtracks in Korean, plus English subtitles. There's also a director's commentary (subtitled, of course) and the film's original trailer. The extras disc is absolutely packed with bonus material, and earns this review an upgrade from four to five stars. The second disc includes nine deleted scenes with director's commentary, a making-of documentary, eight behind-the-scenes featurettes (looking at everything from CGI, art design, make-up effects, stunts, and the musical score), and eight cast / crew interviews. The most interesting of these has the director talking about his film 2001 Imagine (a precursor to Save The Green Planet, as it's also about delusions), where the main character thinks he's John Lennon! Best of all, though, is Jeong Jun-hwan's short 2.5-minute film The Lazy Mirror (1993), which has simple model-animation and a cutesy naiveté about it, but is nonetheless interesting when it shows how this young director's mind works in creating such a portfolio piece. The DVD packaging includes a four-page booklet with film notes by Jayne Dersley.
Save The Green Planet

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