When films cross over between genres, it's often because the director doesn't know what type of movie he wants to make, or the producers wanted him to change the focus sometime after filming has begun. These films often end up being a mess. Save the Green Planet is one film that careens across several genres without giving it a second thought, but it is one of the rare cases where the technique actually works. The picture contains sections that could be classified as psychological thriller, wire-fu, horror, drama, detective film, comedy, SF film, along with several others. First time director (as well as the screenplay's author) Jang Jun-Hwan deftly mixes these disparate genres to create a unique film experience that has to be seen to be believed.
Byeong-gu (Shin Ha-kyun) is a bee-keeper who's not quite all there. After giving it a lot of thought, he's decided that the CEO of a major corporation, Kang Man-Shik, is actually an alien from Andromeda. At the next luna eclipse, a mere week away, Byeong-gu is sure that the Prince of Andromeda will arrive and contact Kang before destroying the world.
With the destruction of the planet imminent, Byeong-gu does the only thing he can think of. He kidnaps Kang, locks him in his basement, and tortures him to get whatever information he can.
Of course the kidnaping of a prominent businessman like Kang gets the police's attention, especially since Kang is married to the police commissioner's daughter. While the lead investigator does things by the book and gets nowhere fast, a young new officer Inspector Kim (Ju-hyeon Lee) teams up with a disgraced but very talented detective, Inspector Chu (Jae-yong Lee) to try to find out just who kidnaped the CEO and why.
This is one of those movies that defies categorization. It starts off as a comedy, with Byeong-gu explaining his crazy ideas about alien invaders to his girlfriend Sooni (Jeong-min Hwang) and having her believe every word of it. Then comes the hilarious kidnaping with Byeong and Sooni wearing black plastic vests and outrageous head-gear to keep themselves safe from the alien's telepathic powers. However the film abruptly shifts gears as soon and Kang is brought to Byeong-gu's basement. As the young man spouts gibberish to his girlfriend about alien physiology, they start to torture Kang, and the film isn't quite so funny. Then the film switches to a detective show, where the focus is on the police officers trying to crack the case. Surprisingly enough director Jang Jun-Hwan melds this all together into a film that is cohesive and holds together very well.
The movie contains some effective torture scenes that the Asian cinema is so deft at producing. These aren't as gruesome as some films, but it these parts aren't for the faint-hearted. Most of the actual torture occurs off screen, but the sounds and effects are certainly shown.
This film did poorly in Korea when it was first released in 2003 which is too bad. It is a unique and enjoyable film that is destined to become a cult classic. Director Jang Jun-Hwan does a magnificent job with the film, creating some beautiful as well as shocking scenes.
One of the reasons the film succeed is that there is a strong central character; Byeong-gu. The genres that the film passes through also reflect the audience's perception of the man. At the beginning both Byeong-gu and the movie are comic, but then as the film turns to a horror flick Byeong-gu changes from being funny to terrifying. As the film progresses and we learn more about this man's past, and he starts to become pitiful, and the movie turns into a drama. His background story is fully fleshed out by the end of the movie, and viewers can understand why he committed the acts that he did.
This disc offers stereo and 5.1 audio tracks, both in Korean. I viewed the film with the 5.1 track and it was very good. They made excellent use of the surrounds throwing a lot of effects and music behind the viewer, but not overdoing it. The audio was very full with good range and also crisp and clear. There are optional English subtitles.
Anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) image is very good. The colors are vivid and bright in the exterior scenes, but in the basement torture chamber they are muted as the director intended. There is excellent definition and contrast, with images in the many dark scene having a good amount of detail. Compression artifacts were negligible. A very good looking DVD.
This disc is packed with extras. First off there are fifteen minutes worth of deleted scenes that are introduced by Jang Jun-Hwan, the director. There is also a five minute interview with Jang, a fifteen minute making of featurette that is an extended interview with the director along with clips from the film, a behind the scenes featurette, and a conversation between the director and the actors. If that wasn't enough the DVD also has the Korean and US trailers, and a music video of the theme song. A comprehensive and very informative set of bonus material. The only thing that's missing in a commentary track.
Save the Green Planet isn't going to be a film for everyone. There are some disturbing torture scenes, but there are also some laugh-out-loud funny parts. A film unlike any other, it has to be seen to be believed. If you are looking from something a little off the beaten path, this would be a good DVD to check out. Recommended.