A.F.R.I.K.A.

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“Thelma & Louise go to Korea, and leave their intelligence at home.”

Ji-Won (Lee Yo-Won) and her friend So-Hyun (Kim) make a trip to the seaside, borrowing a car from a friend. However, the auto turns out to have a couple of guns in it, lost by a gangster and cop in a poker game. The weapons come in handy when the girls need to escape from some assailants, but when they are joined by a manic waitress with no sense of gun-control, the now-trio find themselves on the run from police. A clothing-store owner with a grudge, completes the quartet, as they try to make their way back to Seoul – and they are pursued not only by the cops, also by the previous owners of the guns, who need to get them back to prevent issues of their own. Conversely, their exploits and subsequent media attention are getting them fans of their own, with the titular website (it stands for Adoring Four Revolutionary Idols Korea Association) extolling their virtues and provoking copycat crimes.

The main problem here is a film that can’t work out what it wants to be. Comedy? Thriller? Social satire? Drama? Action? There are elements of all those genres here, and most of them show occasional flashes of potential; yet none of them are done well enough to prove particularly memorable. The women largely come across as flimsy characters, with little in the way of background or even distinguishing traits, and there’s hardly any kind of a character arc for them, though I enjoyed the subversive message of “personal empowerment through fire-arm possession” – it’s especially surprising from a country like South Korea, where guns appear to be very strictly controlled [“You are only allowed to own a gun for hunting purposes, and the few who do, have to keep these guns at the local police station. When you want to hunt, you go to the police station, check your gun out, hunt, and return it to the station when you’re finished.”]

Even exploring this angle, of gun culture in a land without guns, would have been a potentially intriguing approach. Instead, there’s hardly any dramatic impetus, even when the tensions mount between the four girls over where their crime spree should take them next. Instead of building, the film peters out at the end, and is nothing more than forgettable commercial entertainment, slickly-made and unsatisfying.

Dir: Shin Seung-Soo
Star: Lee Yo-Won, Kim Min-Seon, Cho Eun-Ji, Lee Young-Jin

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