SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! (JIGUREUL JIKYEORA!; 2003) was the feature debut of writer/director Joon-Hwan Jang, who claims he was inspired to write the film, about a wealthy CEO kidnapped by an apparently psychotic former employee, after viewing MISERY (1990). Jang’s film was not a success, although it has attained a cult following in the years since its initial release.
Joon-Hwan Jang also co-scripted the 1999 submarine drama YURYEONG/PHANTOM, but as of mid-2009 has yet to attain any subsequent credits.
Kang is the asshole CEO of a major pharmaceutical company. He’s kidnapped one night by two loons, Byeong-gu (an ex-employee) and his overweight female companion Su-ni, both of whom who wear wacky costumes and goofy headgear. They believe Kan is an alien from the planet Andromeda and decide the only way to stop his eminent takeover of the Earth is to torture him. Byeong-gu has other, more personal reasons for his actions: he blames the Andromedians for killing his mother.
In short order, Byeong-gu and Su-ni strip Kang down to his underwear, shave his head and strap him to a chair inside their dank hillside shack. There they subject him to scalding, beating, electrocution and worse.
As a pack of eccentric investigators plumb Kang’s kidnapping, Kang manages to talk Su-ni into leaving. No matter: Byeong-gu refuses to be deterred, even when his captive nearly escapes and a detective investigating Kang’s disappearance turns up. The latter becomes suspicious but is handily dispatched by a swarm of bees.
By this point Kang has had enough of the torment, and admits he’s as an alien. He claims his kind are responsible for humankind’s presence on the Earth and are now ready to get rid of us. But is he telling the truth?
Writer-director Joon-Hwan Jang shows real filmmaking talent, creating an atmosphere at once gritty and cartoonishly over-the-top. Tonally the film falls somewhere between the gross-out cinema of John Waters and THE MATRIX. Like most modern South Korean films, it’s also unerringly slick and well made.
I understand not everyone will appreciate Jang’s penchant for extreme brutality, nor the fact that that the nastiness is played for laughs. This is a crazy movie, and comes complete with deliriously oft-kilter camerawork (much of the opening credits sequence is lensed upside-down) and a rocking grunge rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Unfortunately Jang isn’t nearly as proficient telling a story. Despite its simplicity, the narrative is related in extremely convoluted fashion, confusingly alternating Byeong-gu’s torture of Kang and the authorities’ efforts to track the latter down with flashbacks of Byeong-gu’s disturbed past. The extremely ambitious finale, which tries to accomplish too many things, also falls flat.
SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! (JIGUREUL JIKYEORA!)
Director: Joon-Hwan Jang
Producer: Seoung-Jae Choi, Sun-ah Kim
Screenplay: Joon-Hwan Jang
Cinematography: Kyung-Pyo Hong
Editing: Gok-ji Park
Cast: Ha-kyun Shin, Yun-shik Baek, Jeong-min Hwang, Jae-yong Lee, Ju-hyeon Lee, Ju-bong Gi, Roe-ha Kim, Mu-hyeon Lee