Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Running Turtle (2009)

Running Turtle (Review)
Lee Yeon-woo/Kim Yoon-seok/2009
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming 
Amazon Prime

"...had me laughing consistently..."

A small-town, down-on-his-luck detective, Jo Pil-seong (Kim Yoon-seok), loses his huge gambling winnings to a highly-skilled and elusive fugitive, Song Gi-tae (Jung Kyung-ho).

Running Turtle continues as Pil-seong dedicates himself to capturing Gi-tae against all odds. The story follows a basic formula for most of its runtime: Pil-seong finds and confront Gi-tae, Gi-tae easily escapes, Pil-seong is humiliated and nagged by his wife, and repeat. Fortunately, it is quite often very humorous and enjoyable. Pil-seong and his friends -- a bunch of clumsy gamblers -- really know how to drop the ball. The third act raises the stakes with a tense yet humorous fight and good ending -- it doesn't close all lose ends and it is a bit cliché, but it fits well with the vibe of the film.

My problem with Running Turtle is its heavy reliance on the incompetence of its characters. Yes, it does make for some very humorous moments, but it doesn't seem plausible at all. I'm all for suspending reality during films, I'm not the type of person to poke holes in every film, but this level of unbelievable incompetence is often frustrating. Also, some of the characters are underdeveloped, like the love subplot, and it feels like it unnecessarily bloats the runtime. Otherwise, the film had me laughing consistently, and it moved at a moderate pace. It's not as funny as To Catch A Virgin Ghost, but it's close -- and I thought that movie was hilarious. If you can get past some of the frustrating plot contrivances, you'll find an hilariously entertaining film at heart.

Kim Yoon-seok is great as Pil-seong; he gives the character great life with a charismatic performance, you can help but feel bad while laughing at him. Jung Kyung-ho plays a bit of a trope, but he plays it well; the quite but tough, real mysterious and introspective antagonist -- we've seen it before, at least Kyung-ho plays it well. The film is shot well, the camerawork is occasionally rough and the film can be a bit dark, but it looks well enough. The music, whenever it played, usually fit the mood well, so that's a plus. Lee Yeon-Woo's direction is great, very consistent and direct -- he pulls great performances from his cast.

Overall, Running Turtle is an entertaining crime comedy with a great lead performance. But, it also has some flaws: the plot contrivances (i.e. the incompetence of the police, etc.) are frustrating and even annoying, the characters are underdeveloped, and the runtime is a bit bloated. If you can ignore these issues, and possibly more, you'll find a good time in Running Turtle.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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