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Director Kim Sang-jin runs out of gas


The sequel to the 2000 sleeper hit "Attack the Gas Station" might be one of the worst films ever made.
Even the most lenient of critics would have to agree with that assessment.
Looking at the glossy press booklet just before "Attack the Gas Station 2" began, the words "Directed by Kim Sang-jin" must have assured movie critics and members of the press at the advanced press screening that they were in for a comedic romp.
With a proven box office track record, why wouldn`t anyone expect anything less than a laugh riot from the man that brought us such endearing comedies as "Gas Station" and "Kick the Moon."
Alas, it was not to be.
It is clear Kim must relieve himself of ever taking up the helm of a movie`s production.
That`s a bold statement to make about a director who has made a career out of turning out some of the biggest selling comedies of the 1990s but it seems he never got the memo on how much Korean moviegoers have evolved over the last decade.
Gone are the days when it was amusing to see grown men relentlessly slap and kick each other while shouting expletives at the top of their lungs.
The film picks up 10 years after the events of the first film. The gas station manager has gone south to Busan where he again sells petrol.
Having learned a lesson from his past, this time around he has hired a new crop of employees -- all of whom are quite adept with their fists, ensuring he will never be at the mercy of thugs.
What he hasn`t learned, however, is to treat his minions with respect, and soon his new crop turns against him and its groundhog day for old "Park Sajang."
If you were a fan of the original, by now, you must be excited to see what sort of predicament Park gets himself into.
But this sad excuse for a movie fails to emulate the sterling performances and comedic timing of the original.
Instead, it stumbles through its 90-minute running time from one awkward, mistimed slapstick moment to the next. It feels like an eternity in captivity at a weird neighbor`s performance-art recital in a bizarre-o land where cops and pedestrians don`t exist.
Throughout the film, the film repeats the same Three Stooges antics like a broken record carried by a lifeless cast that looked more interested in phoning in their lackadaisical performances.
But who can blame them with the material they had to work with.
No wonder then, the film`s two main leads Cho Han-sun and Ji Hyun-woo just lurk around every scene with all of the enthusiasm of a lobotomized zombie -- with the exception of the countless fight sequences where they kick and swing their fists all over the place like drunken buffoons.
Even the indomitable gas station manager from the original, played by Park Young-gyu, looked uncomfortable revisiting a role he made so famous 10 years ago.
As if playing a caricature of the original, his over-the-top performance seemed forced, like trying to squeeze out comedic moments that simply weren`t there.
When news hit that the sequel was in the works, there was a considerable buzz, and during the official press conference announcing the release of the film last month, Park himself crooned the film`s title song -- a "trot" tune (the oldest form of Korean pop music) -- to members of the press.
That was perhaps more amusing and endearing than this film.

By Song Woong-ki