masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

Clementine 클레멘타인

clementine.jpgClementine isn’t the worst Korean movie ever. That honor probably goes to gangster flick Rules of the Gangs or one of the generic melodrama’s South Korea keeps curning out. Clementine was made by martial arts movie director Kim Du-young (김두영), auteur of a number of cheap gangster flics such as Charisma (1997) and the equally lambasted but strangely interesting Dying or Live? 죽을래 살래? (2002). As in Charisma, the lead in Clementine is played by former Taekwondo world champion Jun Lee (이동준), but this time he plays opposite the master of the B-movie, Steven Seagal himself. I always thought that a movie with Steven Seagal couldn’t go wrong, but it can. Steven Seagal fighting a Taekwondo match isn’t a pretty sight. Parental discretion advised. I’ll spare you the plot, but if I give you the ingredients, you can probably figure it out yourself: former Taekwondo champion who lost his last fight with bad American Steven Seagal due to corruption, same former champion as an aggressive cop, his smart-mouth scary daughter (unappropriately called Sarang or ‘love’), his dead wife, an evil crime lord, a pretty D.A. and, of course, a cage. Fill in the blanks yourself. If this movie is good for anything, it’s the completely and utterly unimaginative way the director, sorry, the auteur (he also wrote the script, did the filming, the lights and brought himself coffee), sticks to all the rules of the genre. In fact, his complete lack of independence in this respects is almost frightening. The only redeeming feature of the movie? Well, it does lay out the rules of the genre pretty well. And it features the unsung hero of more than half of the Korean movies produced in the ’90’s and afterwards: Ki Chubong (기주봉), supporting actor par excellence, the best character actor if you need a cop, a gangster or a fatherly figure. Just make sure you don’t watch the final fight on your own. It’s downright scary when after seven long years (of biblical significance, I guess) Jun Lee gets to fight Steven Seagal or as he is known throughout the movie: Jack ‘The Killer’ Miller. No, I shit you not. And it’s not pretty either. Steven Seagal looks great if he fights his own fights, but he wasn’t made for taekwondo. Then again, if you see Jun Lee move, who was? Olympic taekwondo is no fun to watch. And neither is the movie, unless you’re really into Steven Seagal, Olympic taekwondo or bad, bad movies. Preferably all three. This movie has got the predictability of Karate Kid, the pathos of The Champ, the acting of Jean-Claude van Damme, the fighting of Michael Dudikoff, the shamelessness of a taekwondo promotion video and the crying girls from The Little House On The Prairie. Consider yourself warned.

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