My Girlfriend Is An Agent(2009)
- RatedPG /GenreAction, Comedy, Romance
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Rating: 3 out of 5
A film like My Girlfriend is an Agent, the Korean film industry's box-office blockbuster answer to Hollywood's Mr and Mrs Smith, makes you wonder why there isn't greater intelligence in the, erm, intelligence business.
Can it be that it's a misunderstood sly spoof of flawed modern-day spy agencies? Perhaps that's over-thinking things, to consider that a film like this could have a subplot like that.
This, after all, is an unabashed crowd-pleaser, where the cookie-cutter spy games are merely a backdrop to the romantic-slapstick-comedy that has been formulated to showcase the film's two attractive young stars, Kim Ha-Neul (who plays Soo-ji) and Kang Ji-Hwan (Jae-joon).
The sophistication of modern filmmaking means that pretty much any actor can be made to look like an action star, or a super agent in the 007 mould. In this film, there is enough proficiency in the filmmaking to passably convince us that Kim and Kang are agents, though there aren't too many death-defying stunts demanded of the two stars (or stunt doubles), apart form a heated kissing scene of lip-chafing intensity.
In truth, Kim and Kang only need to look the part, and be sufficiently cute in their respective roles as estranged lovers who moonlight as spies. The film begins with their comical break-up, brought about by the secrecy required in their covert vocations. After he suddenly dumps her, for being less than truthful about things, she dedicates herself to becoming a top secret agent, with exceptional hand-to-hand combat skills and an affinity for disguises.
A few years later, she is working undercover when she spies him in an unlikely manner. Dressed as a cleaner, hot on the trail of a rogue scientist threatening to sell his secrets to Russian agents, she is stalled by an oddly familiar sight at a men's room urinal. It says something about Korean comedic sensibilities that a girl recognises her ex-boyfriend from his member before she even has to look at his face.
Despite an immensely contrived plot, and the incredibly flimsy premise whereby Korean spies from two different home agencies-the aforementioned ex-lovers-do not have the wherewithal to discover each other's secret identities, this film proves to be a guilty pleasure. It is that rare, improbable film that insults your intelligence but more often than not leaves you laughing instead of feeling deeply affronted.
In no uncertain terms, the comedy here is broad. A 6-year-old in the audience will be just as tickled as the adults. From slapstick to corny, the comedy here has been carefully calibrated to act as an opiate for viewers, to keep them in a somewhat contented state without really questioning the means.
For what it is, My Girlfriend is an Agent completes its mission with unerring accuracy. Nobody really has to believe that Kim or Kang are genuine agent material. The pretty Kim, with a passing resemblance to Hong Kong actress Michelle Reis, in particular is trotted out indulgently in a litany of exciting costumes, all in the line of duty. That certainly satisfies the male demographic.
Meanwhile, her co-star and rumoured off-screen beau Kang, endears himself by maximising the geek appeal of a dorky but brilliant code-breaker, whose run-ins with his brusque team leader turns into an obligatory example of male-bonding.
Unlike the world of espionage, there are few surprises here. The only real surprise, for this reviewer, is the vague sense of satisfaction from consuming a consummately manufactured piece of cinematic confectionary.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III (1990).