FF2012: 'Young Gun in the Time'
Korean time travel with a twist and a lot of heart at Fantastic Fest
By Richard Whittaker, 12:37PM, Wed. Sep. 26, 2012
A year ago, director Oh Young-doo brought lascivious weirdo Invasion of Alien Bikini to Fantastic Fest, and I was unimpressed by its bargain-basement antics. This year, he's back with the even loopier Young Gun in the Time, and I'm glad of the do-over. Because this is a strange, floopy, back-and-forth gem of a time travel pic.
If it looked like the excellent Looper was going to be this festival's only doctor of temporal mechanics, then it was because no-one would expect Pi (Hong Young Geun) of the Young Gun Detective Agency to tie his own shoes, never mind solve a paradox. he's got his land lady/prime investor (Ha Eun Jung) pushing him only to take jobs that pay. Then a young researcher Song-Hyun (Choi Song Hyun) tries to hire him as a hitman. Then she turns up dead, and then she's alive, which is more baffling for Pi than it is for her.
Both Young Gun and Love Bikini were made absolutely on Young-Doo's own micro-budget terms, and he brings back much of the same creative team (including both Geun and Jung.) The big difference is that, for his first feature, he threw everything at the wall, and some stuck, and some bounced. Here's pretty much everything sticks and looks damn fine doing it.
There's a host of shameless Maguffins, including the least obvious time machine since the TARDIS, and a lot depends on Pi having a perfectly functioning cybernetic arm that may have been constructed out of old dildo parts.
Inept detectives are often just clowns, and there's no need to explicitly state the influences of American gumshoes. Yet what he brings most – and what the drives the film – is a sleuth's dedication to saving the day. It's in Pi's dented trilby, his Magnum-esque love of Hawaiian shirts, and the same luckless loserdom that plagued Jim Rockford. It is all comes from this wisp of a man, a weird little details obsessives who seems best suited to hunting lost spiders.
Fortunately, Geun carries it with such charm, much of that springing from the simple, awkward, dorky relationship between Pi and Song-Hyun. Without that, this would be just another series of quirky incidents. But Pi is so out of his depth in everyday life that the sudden addition of assassins, explosions, and head-scratching non-linear incidents means little to him. Without Hyun, he'd just be an entertaining wraith, but her spiky-sweet unknowing heroine is just as much a girl-woman as Pi is a man-child.
Fantastic Fest presents Young Gun in the Time, D: Oh Young-doo, Thursday, Sept. 27, 5.45pm.