Wednesday, December 07, 2016

My Annoying Brother: Plan B for Judo Gold

South Korea offers its Olympic medalists a pretty significant fringe benefit: exemption from mandatory military service. That no longer matters to Ko Du-young. The former Olympic judo contender went blind after his optic nerve was damaged in a match. He would still be entitled to the same financial bonus as a Paralympic champion, but Ko has given up on himself. His estranged conman half-brother is the wrong person to motivate him, but slimy Ko Du-sik moves in anyway in Kwon Soo-kyung’s My Annoying Brother (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.

The Ko brothers have not spoken since he ran away from home ten years ago. In the meantime, Ko Du-young handled their parents’ funerals on his own and found his place in the world through judo. Despite their lack of contact, Ko Du-sik uses his brother’s blindness to secure early parole. He intends to loot the supposedly helpless Du-young as best he can before absconding. However, a few awkwardly embarrassing incidents force Du-sik to keep up appearances for longer than he anticipated. Yet, just as the brothers start to come together as a family again, Du-sik gets some shocking news of his own.

Suddenly, that Olympic money could really help secure Du-young’s future. His bombshell coach Lee Soo-hyun is even willing to transfer to the Paralympic division with him. She also agrees to keep silent regarding Du-sik’s secret, to maintain Du-young’s focus on the competition.

Even though Kwon film shares many surface commonalities with My Blind Brother, the two films are very different animals. Du-young being the nice guy brother is really the least of it. Basically, Kwon takes the sort of tragedy Korean audiences enjoy so much in romantic melodrama and applies it to Bromance. There is some comedy too, particularly courtesy of Dae-Chang, a seminary drop out who keeps crossing paths with Du-sik in the neighborhood. Still, everyone can tell from the start it is all leading up to a big “I love you, man” moment.

Despite some transparent manipulation, Kwon and screenwriter Yu Young-ah deliver some surprising sweet and telling moments celebrating the importance of family bonds. Cho Jung-seok has a roguish charm as Du-sik and the bickering chemistry he develops with Kim Gang-hyun’s Dae-chang is somewhat amusing. Yet, believe it or not, the funniest line is delivered by K-drama-superstar-girl-next-door Park Shin-hye. She definitely brings her “it”-factor as Coach Lee. K-pop boy-band star Do Kyung-soo (a.k.a. D.O.) sulks and mopes as well as anyone, but he just never gets Du-young much further than that.

My Annoying Bro is a nice and sincere film that occasionally surprises just by so deftly turning some third act scenes. Although it is undeniably sentimental, somehow it takes the snark out of viewers. Recommended for fans of heartfelt k-drama and teen movies, My Annoying Brother opens this Thursday P.M. (12/8) in Los Angeles, at the CGV Cinemas.