My Tutor Friend (Review)

My Tutor Friend

aka Donggabnaegi gwawoehagi

Kim Ha-neul as Su-wan
Kwon Sang-woo as Kim Ji-hoon
Baek Il-seob as Ji-hoon’s Father
Kim Ji-woo as Ho-kyeong
Yu Kong/Gong yoo as Jong-soo

Ever had your tutor and you develop and attraction to each other? No? Not even once? What, are you being tutored by ugly guys or something? Oh, that’s understandable. They can’t all be Mary Kay Laturno. Nor can they all be Kim Ha-neul! Another movie full of wonderfully expressive faces, be they goofy, smug, smirking, frightening, humorous, or just plain cute, this girl is fun to watch. (Previous films of hers here are Too Beautiful to Lie and Dead Friend.) Kwon Sang-woo also stars as tough guy Kim Ji-hoon. Kwon Sang-woo is a Korean heartthrob, he goes on to star in Love So Divine which will show up here in a week or two. Yu Kong from Spygirl also appears, as a completely different character than his romantic lead in Spygirl, instead playing a lame gang leader who’s sole function seems to injuring Ji-hoon’s fist by repeatedly slamming his face into it over and over. This also brings up another point that makes this film good, when the film gets too sappy or boring, we get a fight sequence, and not a boring fight, either. The chemistry between Kim Ha-neul and Kwon Sang-woo is wonderful, nothing is forced and you can easily lose yourself in the story. The minor characters are finely crafted as well, this is one of the better romantic comedies to come out of any country.

Tough Guy Kim Ji-hoon is busy beating up Jong-soo and his gang, as well as attracting the attention of the babes. Meanwhile, Kim Ha-neul is tutoring the Moron Twins who spend the entire session trying to look up her skirt. This unlikely pair will soon be crossing paths, with hilarious and romantic results. Okay, this film is a lot better than that cliched sounding sentence I just wrote. Kim Ji-hoon is from a rich background, and has spend too much time being tough and not caring that he’s neglected his studies, and is still in high school at age 21. Kim Ha-neul (her character here is named Su-wan, but we’ll just call her by name since we’re developing an obsession with her here) is a university student, but from a poor background. She agrees to tutor Kim Ji-hoon for three months, thus earning enough money for a whole semester of school.

Ji-hoon is a disruptive, smoking, insulting, and generally looks down on Kim Ha-neul for coming from a poor background. He uses Playboy as an English aide. The only person he seems afraid of is his father, who arrives home early to invite Kim Ha-neul for dinner, at which she accidentally eats some cow testicles. Ji-hoon is the classic bad boy stereotype for a new generation of Koreans. Good grief that sentence sounded ridiculous. Oh, well… Back at high school, a girl who calls herself Madeline puts the moves on Ji-hoon, and two members of Jong-soo’s gang start sucking up to Ji-hoon as well. Madeline is a bad girl herself, so it all evens out. All of this upsets Jong-soo and what’s left of his gang (Including a guy with Elvis hair), but things just end with Jong-soo getting beaten again. The fight itself is done with just flashes of stillshots, which is a nice change of pace.

Ji-hoon calls Kim Ha-neul “Country Chick” and acts insulting again. He ups and takes a shower during the lesson, and while he’s in there, his phone rings. Kim Ha-neul answers it, and snaps at Madeline on the line. This turns out to be a mistake, as Madeline and her gang of girls confront her outside, Madeline is extremely jealous, and beat her around some. Ha-neul grabs her mother’s giant butcher knife to use in case of another attack, though it is never seen again. Ji-hoon spends the next night out at a karaoke bar with his “friends” all of who are arrested for being underage thanks to Jong-soo. Ji-hoon arrives home late, and Kim Ha-neul throws a fit, as well as several books.

Kim Ha-neul refuses to quit, and tries to maintain control in future classes so she won’t be pushed around by him. There is some studying of Chinese idioms including visuals (with such inspiring phrases as “Dark Play Good Shot” which I believe is from Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty… Anyway, English phases follow, and the visuals include a panda with a giant boner. Class is interrupted when Ha-neul gets a call from a guy named Si-kyung and acts all googly-eyed. Ji-hoon stops his mocking of her to answer his phone, and he must immediately leave to save the two suckups from getting beaten up by the rest of Jong-soo’s gang. Ha-neul goes with him, as she was trying to stop him, but was needed to act as cover when Ji-hoon’s dad arrived. The fight itself is well choreographed, and Ji-hoon preserves his undefeated record. Kim Ha-neul sees him in his bloodlust rage as well. Though it’s not really bloodlust rage, more of bored satisfaction. Ha-neul begins to think that she will be beaten by Ji-hoon if she angers him. Hey, I just remembered that on The Simpsons Homer invited Marge over to his house for tutoring to try to ask her out in high school. Yep. That’s really relevant here, so I’m leaving it!

Jong-soo isn’t done with Ji-hoon yet, he gets some real gang members to rob Ji-hoon’s brother, and Ji-hoon arrives at the poolhall they are all at to beat the tar out of them, and does so, even replicating the “kicking the billiard ball” stunt that Jet Li did. He does get injured by a knife, and arrives home all bloodies, with Ha-neul having to clean him up. He is then arrested, and his father is so upset he cuts him off financially, and tries to force him to go back to the US. Ha-neul is still tutoring him, and they start to have some real chemistry beyond constant bickering. The only way he can stay in the country is by living up to a promise he just made about getting some amazingly high grade by the end of the semester. It also turns out he can speak English very well, just is unable to read it. Ha-neul also sweetens the pot by saying if he gets the grade she’ll dance onstage at her school’s festival. He gets above what he said he would, and Kim Ha-neul goes up and dances to Celebration Mature by Park Ji-yoon. She ends up loving it, but Ji-hoon just thinks she looked like a strip show. I was impressed, mostly because I enjoy seeing people act silly, though I don’t think such an act would be a giant hit at talent shows, even in Korea.

Si-kyung is back in town, and Ha-neul starts hanging around him, making Ji-hoon upset, though he tries to show he’s not upset. He follows them and catches a glimpse of them, but she leaves with Si-kyung. Later, she misses class because she went off to get drunk after getting dumped by Si-kyung. Madeline arrives also, and there is a bit of a catfight until Ji-hoon takes Ha-neul home. We get an almost kiss as well. Ji-hoon goes to hurt Si-kyung for making Ha-neul cry, and gets even madder when Si-kyung says he’ll be a father soon, so he hits him. Turns out he’s becoming a Father, not a father! Kim Ha-neul is understandably upset, and hits Ji-hoon repeatedly, she seems to have overcome her fear of him hurting her. He takes her parachuting to make it up to her, and confesses that he likes her, but she pretends to not hear him. Later when celebrating their last lesson, they go to a carnival, and run into one of Ha-neul’s friends on a date. Ji-hoon overhears Ha-neul say it would be crazy to date a high schooler. He gets upset and storms off, leaving behind a present he bought for her.

Such a sad way to end the film. But we all know it ain’t ending here.

Jong-soo and his gang try to kidnap Ha-neul, but she escapes on her scooter and drives off, Jong-soo having called Ji-hoon to gloat, alerting him to the situation. Ha-neul was making a food delivery for her mother, and it turns out the people who ordered the food was Madeline and her crew, who are looking for trouble as well. Their arguing delays Ha-neul at this location enough that Jong-soo can catch up to recapture her. Jong-soo also has some of the real gang members waiting nearby, some of which are bosses. Ji-hoon arrives to get her, and they run off while Jong-soo and Madeline are distracted by fighting with each other. The gang bosses give chase. Ji-hoon notices Ha-neul is wearing the present he left for her, but they have little time to catch up, as the gang bosses are catching up. Jong-soo and his gang, and Madeline and her gang also catch up. Madeline gets unceremonially dumped by Ji-hoon, and the lower gang members start to beat up Jong-soo’s gang, though Jong-soo has a cast on, and is able to use it to defeat them. All of the girls just go to the sideline to sit and watch, like it’s high school football or something. We could use some cheerleaders, maybe a popcorn vender, get some hot dogs… Jong-soo and his gang help Ji-hoon fight two of the lower gang bosses, just because they want to beat up Ji-hoon for themselves. Why they invited the gang in the first place I don’t really understand. Jong-yoo’s gang member with Elvis hair gets all shook up as well. Or all beat up. Terrible jokes aside, he’s lying unconscious after a few punches. Anyway, everyone gets defeated except Ji-hoon, and he must face the head gang boss by himself.

We get a well choreographed fight sequence, complete with computer generated moves, though it is pretty entertaining. Ji-hoon is losing, but Kim Ha-neul gets up and kicks the gang boss from behind in the nards. That’s just what it takes to defeat him, and we get our happy ending. Kim Ha-neul and Ji-hoon drive off together, and in the closing scene we see that she is now tutoring Ji-hoon’s younger brother, and Ji-hoon is there to smack him around when he gets lippy. Overall, this is a well done film, and one of the best Korean Romantic comedies. It’s better than most American fare, and has a great mixture of action with the comedy and romance. None of the main characters are annoying enough that you just hate them throughout the movie, and the mix of styles combines with the great chemistry of the cast makes for an excellent film.

Rated 9/10 (Kim Ha-neul!, Panda Aide, Kim Ha-neul!, Chicken Aide, Kim Ha-neul!, That’s not how you smoke, Kim Ha-neul!, Shocked!, and KIM HA-NEUL!!!!)

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