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Director Shim aims at U.S. box office

Hollywood may be the goliath of the movie industry, but Korean film director Shim Hyung-rae is not afraid to knock on its door.

“I believe that Hollywood absolutely bought the idea of the main character in the recently released movie, ‘The Last Godfather.’”

Despite critics’ skepticism over his entrance into Hollywood after a string of poorly received movies such as “Yong-gari” and “D-war,” Shim is planning to take a step further with his latest film. 

Film director Shim Hyung-rae (All That Cinema)
Film director Shim Hyung-rae (All That Cinema)

“After the release in Korea, I’m planning on hitting the U.S. market, then, it will be easier for me to enter other world markets,” he told The Korea Herald.

Now 53, the comedian-turned-director released “The Last Godfather,” a slapstick comedy, last December, marking his seventh movie release.

His choice of incoherency in characters and settings has now become the director’s signature. In his film “Yong-gari” (1999), he placed an American fossil geologist in the Northern part of the Ural mountains in Russia; in his next film, D-War, he dropped a dragon into the center of L.A., and this time, he has brought a Korean country boy to New York ― the son of a New York Mafia member.

Shim’s films do not lack any criteria of a Hollywood movie. They use CGI, celebrities and feature his unique settings.

However, he has been criticized for poor quality CGI and a “lack of cinematic craft and technicality.” Some have even accused him of besmirching the image of Korea and called for him to end his career as a film director.

Notably, he was slammed by Jin Joong-gwon, a leading social critic, on his social networking site, with Jin writing he would “never waste time watching Shim’s movies” and calling “The Last Godfather” a “defective product.”

To this, he said “I understand that there are people who are against what I do; however, they shouldn’t talk about things apart from the movie itself.”

One thing that Shim is concerned with is Korea’s prowess in CGI movies. He said it was “regrettable” how far behind Korea was compared to Japan in the 1990s.

“When I was in the midst of the initial stage of releasing my first movie, I could not find a tech agency to take charge of my movie, I had to go all the way to Japan to look for it. At that time we had to pay a large sum of money for the rental fee, just because we lacked the technology,” he said. 

Returning home in 1993, he established his own company “Young-gu Art” and it has grown gradually over the years to encompass a special effects team and production and design teams.

Shim said he understands he has a long way to go with his CGI techniques, but will never stop making movies as a director.

But he also dreads failure.

“However, knowing the reason for the failure becomes an asset. And with that asset, I am going to keep challenging. There is no absolute failure for those who keep challenging themselves,” he said.

“Korean movies have grown to become world renowned. However, to become a commercial film, there is a long way to go, and Korean film directors should push themselves to be more active in entering overseas markets,” he added. “Only persistent challenge will bring great results.”

And he said he hoped to open up a path for the Korean movie industry, through his efforts.

“I will try my best through my launch of movies in Hollywood, to make a path for Korean films to enter the U.S., with dignity and confidence,” he said.

“The Last Godfather” reached 1.3 million seats sold on its first week’s release. Now Shim is in preparation for his next project, a 3-D animation orphan tale called “Memory of the Bread” which will portray 1960s post-war Korea. “I’m going to keep making films regardless of genre, and eventually hit the box office,” said Shim.

By Hwang Jurie (

<한글 요약> 

심형래 감독의 할리우드 진출을 위한 도전

심형래 감독은 ‘디 워’에 이어 ‘라스트 갓파더’로 할리우드 진출을 위한 재도전에 나섰다. 비평가들의 혹평에도 불구하고 심형래 감독은 도전에 박차를 가하려고 하고 있다.

지난 12월에 개봉한 ‘라스트 갓파더’는 심 감독의 7번째 영화로 1950년대 뉴욕을 배경으로 미국의 마피아 보스가 자신의 숨겨진 아들인 영구를 후계자로 지목하면서 일어나는 소동을 슬랩스틱코미디로 담은 영화다. 

심 감독이 제작한 영화의 캐릭터와 영화배경의 부조화는 그 만의 특유의 특징이 되었다. 

‘용가리’에서 미국 화석 지질학자를 우랄산맥 한 가운데에, ‘디 워’에서는 용을 LA 시내 한가운데 배치, 그리고 한국의 전통 소년을 뉴욕으로 옮겨놓았다. 

최근 문화평론가 진중권의 독설은 ‘라스트 갓파더’에게 오히려 흥행의 ‘약’이 되었다는 이야기도 있다. 

심형래 감독의 영화에 대한 평론가들의 비평은 계속되고 있지만, 심 감독의 영화제작과 할리우드 진출에 대한 의지는 계속 되고 있다.