The somewhat oddball premise of rekindling a dormant relationship by demanding repayment of a year-old $3,500 I.O.U. works remarkably well for director Lee Yoon-ki.
Fuelled by Azuko Taira’s novel and Park Eun-yeong’s leisurely screenplay, the film could have been a disaster without the right leads. Jeon Do-yeon has certainly mastered the “moderate and intellectual” ascribed to her character (Kim Hee-su) by the late sleeper (Oh Ji-eun is deliciously catty as Se-mi, the upscale call-girl) who is met at just one of many stops during the estranged couple’s collective visits to a wide variety of her ex-boyfriend’s female acquaintances, calling in favours—past or future—in the form of cash.
The man of the hour is the ever-affable Cho Byoung-woon. Ha Jung-woo—with his instantly-infectious boyish looks and ready smile—fits the role perfectly. Much to Hee-su’s chagrin, his constant good humour and apparently selfless deeds (yet he hasn’t stayed in touch with his banker/lover since he got the cash and learned of her approaching wedding to someone with means—a wonderful dichotomy there) put him on the moral high road.
Accompanying their ride around Seoul is an unseen jazz band. Engaging solo work from trumpet, clarinet, guitar and trombone helps the time between visits to the sophisticated ladies disappear agreeably. As well, the music deftly underscores the running gag of Byoung-woon’s apparent inability to accurately recall—much less pronounce—the name of Hee-su’s favourite singer (Astrud Gilberto). Some smart shot set-ups keep the eye engaged (the overhead camera announces the couple’s arrival at President Han’s—Kim Hye-ok—office with panache and doesn’t give away the fact that the corporate executive is hard at work fine-tuning her swing on a rooftop practice tee). Kim Hyeong-ju‘s crisp edits also contribute to the flow.
As the metamorphosis from bickering enemies to, perhaps, rejuvenated lovers proceeds, the writing gets a little too “on the nose” (“Hiding things is my hobby, OK”: “Have you ever been hurt?”; “GPS is more reliable than some people.”) and the visual metaphors are equally bald (“We retrieve unpaid debts for you” says a poster). But there are enough funny scenes (from gum scrapping after class to a biker gang’s pork chop BBQ) to provide most romantics with an entertaining couple of hours. Those looking for non-stop action should move on, but anyone who’s ever had second thoughts about what could have been after a breakup will want to learn for themselves what might be put to good use in their own game of relationship roulette. JWR