Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart) puts more emphasis on comedy than romance

Joo Won in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart).

Joo Won in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart).

The main characters in Catch Me (Steal My Heart) are Lee Ho-tae, and Yoon Jin-sook.
Lee is a smug police profiler, who sweeps into rooms and immediately starts pontificating. We see snippets of his dramatic lectures, when he tells his fellow cops that crimials are heartless monsters. His boss seems to appreciate him, as do his immediate co-workers, though there’s a rivalry happening with some other cops in the division. Lee is full of himself, for sure, but he isn’t evil, and since he’s played by the incredibly charming Joo Won, how could anyone possibly dislike him? Seriously. I dare you to even try it! (More about Joo Won later.) Those who are already fans might like to know that he sings a bit in this film, too.

Lee and his men have been trying to catch a serial killer for ages. Mere seconds before they move in to arrest him, their suspect is knocked over, not once, but twice (!) in a hit-and-run accident. (He survives, BTW.) Lee is mightily annoyed by this. His professional pride is hurt, and his boss teases him that the accident makes the unknown driver the real hero, instead of Lee, even though vehicular-almost-homicide is usually frowned upon.

Lee vows to find the driver, and his search leads him to the rather fancy home of Yoon Jin-sook. When her beauty-treatment mask falls off, he realizes that she’s the former girlfriend he has not seen in 10 years. Surprisingly, she does not resist arrest; she’s quite willing to go to the police station with him. They get into his car, he starts to drive there. . . but between one thing and another, they do not go to the station, he does not turn her over to his colleagues. (The police HQ looks really familiar to me. I’m wondering it that’s because it appears in many films, or did I possibly walk by it when I was in Seoul?)

Lee gives Yoon Jin-sook (remarkably chaste) shelter in his apartment while he tries to figure out what to do next. (Yoon Jin-sook is played by Kim Ah-joong, who is probably most famous for her role in 200 Pounds Beauty. In that film she plays a talented backup singer who embarks on a severe diet/fitness regimen and has lots and lots of plastic surgery to impress some guy. . .or to prove that he’s a shallow hypocrite. Possibly both? It’s been a few years since I saw it. Kim Ah-joong was also in the TV dramas Punch, Sign and The Accidental Couple.)

Back to the plot: When he returns to work, Lee is asked why he hasn’t brought the driver in yet; he also sees surveillance footage that suggests Yoon Jin-sook has committed other crimes – she is a suspect in a series of big-time art thefts. (Strange that she is so clumsy behind the wheel, in the kitchen and when handling Lee’s expensive action figures – dolls by another name! – yet she can be so light-fingered with precious vases, etc. Well, that’s comedy for you. Nobody slips on any banana peels in this film, though a few scenes come quite close.)

Joo Won, left, and Kim Ah-joong examine "love locks" in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart).

Joo Won, left, and Kim Ah-joong examine “love locks” in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart).

Back at Lee’s apartment, the two get reacquainted, and, through flashbacks, we learn, among other things, how they met, why Yoon did not show up for their 100-days-of-being-a-couple anniversary date (fans of Korean films and K-dramas will understand the importance of the 100-day-anniversary) and why Lee, an art student, decided to become a police officer. Most of these flashbacks are funny. Not all of them, though.

Awww! Are they cute or what? Joo Won, left, and Kim Ah-joong in a flashback scene in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart).

Awww! Are they cute or what? Joo Won, left, and Kim Ah-joong in a flashback scene in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart).

So, a few more words about actor Joo Won. He has lots of fans, all over the world and all over the Internet. He was in many popular TV dramas, including Cantabile Tomorrow, Good Doctor, 7th Grade Civil Servant, Bridal Mask, Ojakgyo Family, and King of Baking, Kim Takgu.

While watching the first few minutes of Catch Me I was reminded of my fave, Kang Dong-won. It’s far from a “separated at birth” situation, and the similarity is easier to see when his face is in motion (especially his eyes) as opposed to frozen in a photo. When I Googled Joo Won I realized that this resemblance was a popular discussion topic, and that I had even read about it before. I just hadn’t remembered Joo Won’s name since I hadn’t seen any of his work yet.

In most of his scenes in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart),  actor Joo Won wears casual clothes or a nice suit, but here he wears the police uniform of his charcacter Lee Ho-tae. I can imagine all his fan girls saying "Oppa! Arrest me now!"

In most of his scenes in the Korean romantic comedy Catch Me (Steal My Heart), actor Joo Won wears casual clothes or a nice suit, but here he wears the police uniform of his charcacter Lee Ho-tae. I can imagine all his fan girls saying “Oppa! Arrest me now!”

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As for the film in general, if you Google Catch Me (Steal My Heart) you can easily find some negative reviews. And I’ll grant you, the plot is pretty feeble (though no worse than many others) but the film is still good for many hearty laughs, especially if you watch it with a group. I saw it at a free public screening, presented by Ciné-Asie, at MAI on Jeanne-Mance St. The audience included males, females, young, old, Asian and non-Asian and everybody there seemed to be having a very good time.

The evening got off to a great start with several wonderful tunes from singer Griot, and guitarist Yellow Beats. While they played together on this occasion, they also have separate musical identities. The songs they played reminded me of the K-indie music I heard in cafés during my South Korean vacation. That was no accident, apparently they worked closely with the Ciné-Asie staff to choose just the right tunes to share with us. Their efforts were rewarded with very enthusisatic applause. I certainly hope to see and hear them again.

While the date has not been chosen yet, Ciné-Asie will probably show the very popular South Korean historical costume drama The Face Reader in August. Song Kang-ho (송강호) plays the face reader of the title, Kim Nae-kyeong, a man who can “read” a face the way others read a book. He sees through any kind of fakery to a person’s true character (clever, stupid, honest, corrupt, humble or haughty) and, by extrapolation, predict his/her future actions. Because of this talent, Kim finds himself in the middle of dangerous court intrigue.

You might know Song Kang-ho from his work in Snowpiercer, The Attorney, Secret Reunion, The Show Must Go On, The Host, Memories of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Joint Security Area, The Foul King, Shiri, The Quiet Family. And that’s just a sampling, not his entire output! (Note to self: Write reviews for some of those films. Share links to reviews that I wrote a long time ago for the Montreal Gazette.)

Consider “liking” Ciné Asie’s Montreal Monthly Asian Film Screening (MAFS) Facebook page so you’ll be notified when a date is chosen for The Face Reader. The room has a limited seating capacity, so people will be asked to RSVP via email. (Sadly, the “monthly” part of the page’s name is no longer valid. But we can always hope for a change in the future, right?)
BTW: Ciné-Asie also organizes the AmérAsia Montreal Asian Film Festival (www.amerasiafestival.com), Korean Film Festival in Canada (www.koreanfilm.ca).

 

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