[NOTE: This is a review of a Region 3/NTSC DVD. This DVD may not be playable on your DVD player. Please check to see that your DVD player can play DVDs encoded for Region 3/NTSC prior to purchasing this title.]
For many years Hong Kong ruled the Asian box-office, but with the mass migration of talent due to fears over the 1997 handover, their star has since faded. Vibrant and original filmmakers have since emerged from Japan, Korea and even Thailand, insuring that the Asian continent would still have a dominant voice in the world of cinema. Sadly, due to language barriers and cultural differences Asian comedies have always suffered when transitioning into the Western world. Only Jackie Chan, with his mix of slapstick comedy and daring martial-arts stunts, ever saw any cross-over success. Recently, Korea has released many great films of all different genres, but their comedies in particular have been very successful. My personal experience with Korean comedies has usually been positive, absolutely loving such films as Attack The Gas Station and My Sassy Girl, while merely tolerating something like The Foul King.
I have to say that seeing the original My Wife Is A Gangster, which was a huge box-office smash in Korea, it definitely fell into the latter category. The premise of a tough female gangster trying to find a suitable husband to fulfill her dying sister's last wish was great, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The drama was too dramatic, the comedy was too weird and the action was very violent and surprisingly graphic. Eun-jin, the gangster, just never ever came off as likeable or sympathetic in any way, even when she miscarried as a result of a rival gang's beating. Her "husband" was almost the saving grace of the film, but even he was too one dimensional, never quite becoming the character you'd hope he'd be. Also, the is-she or isn't-she teasing over Eun-jin's true sexual orientation is unnecessary, as Eun-jin is clearly a lesbian.
Ok, so now that I've told you about my utter disappointment with the first movie, let me say that My Wife Is A Gangster 2: The Legend Returns is awesome! I was completely shocked by how much I liked this movie and even wonder if my incredibly positive reaction towards it might have something to do with my dislike of the original. There's no need to even see My Wife Is A Gangster before watching the sequel, as the plot is pretty easy to follow. We pick up where we left off with man-hating gangster Eun-jin and her Scissor Gang in a heated roof-top battle with some rivals. During the course of the fight, Eun-jin takes a fall and lands in the back of a truck which delivers her to a small town outside the city where, having lost her memory, she comes under the care of restaurateur and single father, Jae-chul.
Fast forward two years later and we see that Eun-jin is now working as a delivery woman in Jae-chul's Chinese restaurant and living with him and his teenage daughter. Even though Eun-jin has lost her memory, which she goes to great and hilarious lengths to get back, she still has little more than a thankful affection towards Jae-chul. In one scene we see the great lengths that Jae-chul has gone to be with Eun-jin, including trying to tie her down in her sleep just so he can lie in the same room with her. Of course she kicks his ass, because even in her sleep she's more than a match for most able-bodied men. It's her amazing fighting prowess that she is able to demonstrate time and again that begins to jog her memory as to her life before being a delivery woman.
A gang begins to cause trouble in her new home, fleecing businesses for protection money and harassing the locals. Her stand against these criminals brings her to the attention of the gang boss, who realizes who she is, and that she doesn't know who she is. This brings about a couple funny scenes in which he tries to bring her memory back, just so she'll know why he's killing her. While she has been gone, the Scissor gang has been searching for her, but fearing the worst. By chance they stumble upon her whereabouts just as the rival gang is making their move. Of course she eventually regains her memory and takes on the gang, along with some surprise help from Jae-chul and her neighbors.
The problems I had with the original film in terms of the pacing and sometimes heavy-handedness of the director aren't noticeable here. Instead we get a light as air action-comedy that is propelled from the action set piece of the opening battle, to the surprise ending featuring Zhang Ziyi as Eun-jin's new nemesis. I doubt that this is much of a spoiler, especially since they used Zhang Ziyi's cameo as a major selling point of the film. Pre-production has also begun on a third installment of the My Wife Is A Gangster franchise, again featuring Zhang Ziyi in a greatly expanded role.
Picture: The film is presented in a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen format. The transfer looks great with a solid picture and little noticeable grain.
Audio: There are a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Track and a Korean DTS Track (w/English subs). The Dolby track sounds great, and the film's soundtrack, including Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" as the theme song and an elaborate fight sequence set to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," takes full advantage.
Extras: There's a ton of Extras on this two-DVD set, but be prepared to read Korean, as they have no English subtitles. Extras included on the first disc include an audio commentary with the cast and crew, two trailers, one TV spot, an ad for the Soundtrack CD which doubles as a music video, and a stills gallery. The second disc is all Extras, and includes interviews with the cast and crew, a behind-the-scenes featurette on the special effects of the film, a storyboard to screen comparison, B-roll of Shin Eun-kyeong doing a promotional shoot for the film and finally, Zhang Ziyi's press conference showing her arrival in Korea and sit down with the press about her cameo.
Conclusion: This movie ranks right up there with some of the best Korean comedies I've had the pleasure of seeing. My Wife Is A Gangster 2: The Legend Returns is pure popcorn filmmaking of the best kind, neither as deep or as meaningful as it could be, rather a light and free-spirited comedy. It's a shame that this disc, which comes in a great package loaded with tons of Extra features is a Region 3 release. I'd easily give this a higher rating, but since you would need a multi-region player to enjoy, I can only go so far as to say this DVD is Recommended.