Movie review: Pretty leads, typical drama in Obsessed

Song Seung Heon plays a decorated war hero who falls in love with his subordinate's wife (Lim Ji Yeon, both above) in Obsessed.
Song Seung Heon plays a decorated war hero who falls in love with his subordinate's wife (Lim Ji Yeon, both above) in Obsessed.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

Review Drama

OBSESSED (R21)

132 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**1/2

The story: Decorated war hero Colonel Kim (Song Seung Heon) returns to South Korea after battling in the Vietnam War and hopes to lead a quiet life with his wife (Jo Yeo Jeong). His plan falls apart, however, when he finds himself enamoured with Ga Heun (Lim Ji Yeon), the pretty young wife of a subordinate.

South Korean heart-throb Song baring it all for a provocative erotic film? The movie sells itself.

Which was exactly what happened when it premiered in South Korea in May, where it beat Hollywood blockbusters Godzilla and Transcendence to top the box office in its opening weekend.

Korean news outlets also ran stories of how there was a remarkable amount of hype surrounding the film online, even though it could not be promoted openly as the country was still in mourning over the Sewol ferry tragedy.

The film certainly pushes the boundaries, even for Song. While the actor with the famously buff bod has played all sorts of romantic heroes with a tendency to be seen without his clothes, getting all hot and steamy in an adulterous affair like this would be a "scandalous" first.

If he is trying to stretch himself as an actor here - and it sure seems to be the case - it does not help his cause that he still looks dashingly handsome in every scene (must he really wear sunglasses indoors and smirk all the time?). He will not be shaking off the idol tagline anytime soon.

Moreover, the rest of the film unfolds in a conventional manner. Even Lim, the new starlet playing the female lead here, is as generic as they come - beautiful, for sure, but also easily replaced by any other pretty, surgery-enhanced face.

Take Song out of the equation and the movie is just a typical romantic melodrama, the type that South Korea has been churning out by the dozens every year for the big and, especially, small screens.

Given the sinister-sounding title (which in Korean is actually Human Addiction), one would have thought that the story would be a lot darker, but writer-director Kim Dae Woo never goes that far.

As Song's colonel character starts falling in love with his subordinate's wife, things often happen so easily and coincidentally for them that you never get a sense of how forbidden their romance truly is. Neither is there enough desolation or coldness on the part of his character to justify his cheating on his wife in the first place.

Not that K-drama fans would be too concerned about any of this.

The entire thing is beautifully shot. The retro costumes are lavish and the period sets are expensive, and there are some lovely romantic scenes set in pretty gardens and cosy homes.

Prettiest of all, of course, is still Song. His fans will surely ask for encores.

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