Saturday, March 24, 2012

Korean Rom-Com: My Girlfriend is an Agent

Evidently Jamie Gorelick also set up an information-sharing firewall for Korean intelligence. Unbeknownst to each other, two agencies are tracking the same Russian gangster-spies out to purchase the latest monster virus. Nor do Ahn Soo-ji and her ex realize they work for the rival agencies. Things get rom-com complicated in Shin Tae-ra’s My Girlfriend is an Agent (trailer here), which screens this Tuesday in New York as part of the Korean Cultural Service’s current It’s a Fine Romance film series—for free.

Ahn is an excellent operative, but things like rejection make her loose her cool. In contrast, Lee Jae-joon is completely incompetent, but he is a rookie. At least his Russian background will be useful. Obviously, the evil Victor Somethingrussian has a huge advantage. Every Korean operation targeting him is blown when Ahn and Lee blunder into each other.

Of course, they fight like cats and dogs, providing much entertainment for the local coppers, while scrupulously maintaining their classified affiliations. When Ahn and Lee’s teams finally start to suspect their respective exes, they assume each is in league with the Russians, as duly required in secret agent comedies.

Agent is not afraid to milk a public yelling match for all its worth. Indeed, the comedy is pretty broad here, but it barrels ahead quite confidently. To give credit where it is due, Shin and screenwriter Cheon Seong-il certainly know how to introduce their heroine, immediately putting Ahn into the field as a pistol-packing, jet-ski driving undercover bride. That so works.

In fact, as Ahn, Kim Ha-neul makes a pretty engaging action protagonist, poised in her fight scenes and rather endearing when navigating her romantic frustrations. However, the slapstick incompetence of Kang Ji-hwan’s Lee is lathered on far too strongly, quickly undermining any possible dramatic credibility. Still, his goofiness is not difficult to translate.

Clearly, Agent just wants viewers to have fun, which is cool. Frankly, it contrasts rather favorably with Hollywood spy comedies of recent vintage that unfailingly portray either the CIA or the U.S. military as the “real villains.” Though they have their secrets, Agent’s heavies are still Russian, through and through.

A smash hit in Korea, it is fairly easy to understand Agent’s appeal. Light and breezy with a healthy dose of romance, it is an amusing bauble. It ought to be quite pleasant to watch it with an appreciative audience—again, for free—so plan to arrive early when it screens this Tuesday (3/27) at the Tribeca Cinemas, courtesy of the Korean Cultural Service in New York.