Predictably, Lee is assigned to recover a fabled Korean national treasure Golden Buddha, only to confront a slew of obstacles -- a suspicious murder of a female agent (Gong Hyo-jin), ruthless goons and dark schemes.
Also predictably, Lee embarks on a global journey together with a sexy partner (Park Si-yeon) in a bid to resolve the mystery. What`s unpredictable, though, is that the locations where Lee encounters with all the self-styled enemies are on a grand scale, encompassing Shanghai, Manchuria, Switzerland, Tokyo and Pennsylvania, the United States. What`s more remarkable is that all the international sites seem to be somewhere in Korea.
Another strength of the film is its liberal use of four different languages: Korean, Japanese, Chinese and English.
Most of the characters sport an amazing level of fluency in foreign languages, mixing Korean and foreign words in a way that is irresistibly funny and amusing for those who remember the old days when Korean television series and movies relied on similar forms of Konglish.
Unlike other mainstream films that record the dialogue in real time, "Dachimawa Lee" relies on post-production recording. This results in intentionally stilted and exaggerated dialogue -- another clever device that director Ryoo uses to maximum comic effect.
Ryoo Seung-bum, younger brother of director Ryoo, plays one of the key baddies in the film, showing off his talent in infusing realism into the character. Although the character itself is relatively minor considering Ryoo Seung-bum`s lofty status in Korean cinema, he seems to understand what he`s really up to, bringing a likeable rogue to the audiences.
But it is Lim Won-hee who sets the overall tone for the movie. His deadpan face and deadly serious voice fuel the film`s comic drive, demonstrating his firm grip on the tricky character.
"Dachimawa Lee," to be released nationwide today, is by no means a blockbuster. But it deserves all the credits it aims for because of its eccentric sense of humor, riotous performances of impassioned actors and the director`s unusually defiant creativity.
By Yang Sung-jin