Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2022 5:11 pm 
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Korean super-girl

The feisty teenage girl in this movie is nearly indestructible. She has a mean look and a badass armful of tattoos. She also has little impulse control, but that can also be how you deal with problems fearlessly as they arise. And while her choice of violence seems wrong, she makes the wrongdoers against her no-count dad pay for their self-indulgence. In the end, she has served a term of forced education/community service and then after far worse misdeeds an eighteen-month jail sentence, and she comes out of it all apparently living a good life with her little brother. Perhaps her wild energy in future will be channeled into artistic endeavors. Whether all this makes any sense isn't altogether clear. But The Girl on a Bulldozer comes that close to being a very original movie and the actress an emerging star.

The teenage hothead is Goo Hye-young (Kim Hye-yoon). The film opens in a courtroom where the (lady) judge notes that in a restaurant brawl she protected three people, but she also began by striking them, and for that she gets a required course of public instruction in a trade. This is how she learns to drive a bulldozer, an odd choice since she's the first female ever to enter, but later she demonstrates that she (and actress Kim Hye-yoon) has learned to operate it effectively.

Hye-young's hard-nosed manner makes sense as a survival strategy. Her mother has been dead for years and her father (Hyuk-kwon Park) is unreliable and incompetent and can't pay the bills, which include multiple insurance premiums. At present he is in hospital following an accident. It turns out he hit several people, had been drinking, and was driving a vehicle stolen from his former boss. His condition worsens and he is declared brain-dead. This leaves Hye-young to care for her little brother. But that was true already.

The situation is too complicated to go into here. The former boss has turned over property to dad where he has set up a small restaurant. It turns out this man, who is a candidate for local government office glad-handing everyone now, is a slimy individual who has exploited Hye-young's father and misled him. Hye-young's dad had gone to confront him about this, leading to the stolen vehicle. The accident claims of the two dad hit turn out to be fraudulent. Dad isn't at fault, and the two "victims" may even be scammers. Hye-young sets out to expose him and in the course of her investigations, which happen all in the course of a single, impressive, madly determined day, she finds proof. When the boss sends money to pay her off, she takes it, dumps it on the floor of his posh flat, and attempts to douse it with gasoline and set fire to it. There's incorruptibility for you. That measure fails, so she commandeers the training bulldozer and goes on a rampage and does some serious damage, not only to the property the boss is planning to steal back, but to the posh flat.

After Hye-youn is out of jail and working at a restaurant, she gets wonderful news from the series of insurance companies. Several years later they have reversed their judgment and validated her dad's policies and each one is making a payment to her as the next of kin.

Clearly the filmmakers are out to show us the intricacies of petty local corruption most of all and thumb their noses at them with Hye-young as a kind of objective correlative of their righteous indignation, though they ignore the rule that two wrongs don't make a right. But when we think about it, righteous heroes or heroines - Supermen - do a lot of property damage. There is a part of us that relishes such displays.

Kim Hye-yoon gives a rousing and convincing performance as Hye-young. Look for her in future high profile films.

The Girl on the Bulldozer 불도저에 탄 소녀, 112 mins., opened in Korea 7 April 2022. Screened for this review as part of the July 15-31, 2022 New York Asian Film Festival, where Kim Hye-yoon receives the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award. New York Premiere

NYAFF SHOWING: July 25, 2022, 8:30 pm at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.

The only English language review is an enthusiastic one on the Korean blog site Society Reviews.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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