She's On Duty (HK - DVD R3)
Cop goes undercover at an all-girl school in order to protect a potential witness. Cue lots of bullying, school uniforms, kung fu ...
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Whilst Asian cinema has recently broken further boundaries in the crime thriller, horror and martial arts genres, it is also privy to a type of movie that I find hard to classify. The best I can do is romantic-comedy-thriller, but even that does not quite capture the essence of what makes films like Windstruck and now, She’s On Duty, tick. Using a mixture of fantasy, Jackie Chan style comedy, outright serious thrills and school-kid romance, these movies are at the same time difficult to classify and easy to put in the same box. Although such a mix does not sound like it would particularly work – Peanut Butter and Jam anybody? Windstruck got it right. Can She’s On Duty do the same?
Detective Chun Jae In thinks that she is about to break a huge child prostitution ring, but when she finds that she has really ruined a much higher-level undercover operation, she is embarrassed and humiliated. Despite this, an important new mission arises that requires her unique talents – i.e. her ability to dress up and convince as a school-girl. She must go undercover once again, this time in a school, under the pretence of being a new student so that she can ensure the safety of the daughter of an important Mafia witness that the police want to locate. Before long she finds her maths skills challenged, her fighting skills honed on the school bullies and her heart melted by a fellow student. But will she be able to stay focussed on the mission, capture the bad guys and save the day?
She’s On Duty is a crazy little film. At times hugely self-mocking, with frequent gags and comedy moments, it still manages to turn serious occasionally and even bring in some dreamy wild romance moments. At the centre of it all we have Kim Sun-A, who plays the lead character Chun. Although I think she looks better on the cover art, she is a strangely interesting young woman who is perfectly happy to bear the brunt of the many jokes without feeling any apprehension. She is uniquely captivating, even though she is not conventionally beautiful, and she does a great job in the lead role. Backing her up we have the unemotional Nam Sang Mi, playing the girl she is supposed to protect – Seung Hee, along with Gony Yoo, who plays the supposedly under-aged object of her affections.
What we have here is a fun bit of nonsense, with a well-trodden script brought to life by comedy and a warm sentiment. If you like similar offerings in this unusual genre – and it has been understandably compared to Miss Congeniality and Never Been Kissed – then you will definitely like She’s On Duty. It is harmless fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This edition happens to be the director’s cut. Unfortunately there is nothing on the disc (in English) which helps explain what was cut, and I have not seen the original so as to be able to distinguish the changes myself. As far as I can tell there is very little which I would have changed – a couple of scenes of fairly brutal violence may have been re-inserted but nothing to write home about.
She’s On Duty is presented in a solid 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The quality is excellent, with detail and clarity throughout; no sign of softness, edge enhancements or other digital artefacting. There is no noticeable grain to interfere with your viewing pleasure and the transfer is devoid of print damage in the form of dust or scratches. The colour scheme is wide, bright and occasionally gaudy, but the colours are always well represented with solid blacks. It is a brilliant transfer that makes the movie shine.
There are two main audio tracks in the original Korean audio – Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 – both of which are largely excellent and almost indiscernible. The DTS track seems to have a little more power, but both present the vocals clearly from the frontal array, offer up nice observation of the occasional effects and allow the soundtrack – however unsuitable the Lord of the Dance theme seems – to sound as good as it gets. We even get a little bass from time to time, although nothing particularly powerful. Overall they are two brilliant tracks with decent, utterly comprehensible English subtitles.
Aside from an audio commentary on the first disc we get a whole second disc full of extra features. There are four hefty behind the scenes featurettes, all with plenty of on-set footage and cast and crew interviews. There is also a stills montage, thirty minutes of deleted scenes, twenty-five minutes of outtakes and three theatrical trailers. Sounds great; however there are no English subtitles on any of the features, making them all worthless and largely unwatchable. Sure you can see a bit of interesting behind the scenes footage but the commentary, interviews and extra footage are utterly worthless.
She’s On Duty is another effective addition to the trademark Asian comedy-thriller-romance that we have seen in the likes of Windstruck. Managing to juggle so many different genres, it is focussed by an unusual heroine and a snappy, fast-paced script. This release presents it with a solid video transfer and some decent audio tracks, along with lots of extras that are all worthless because of their lack of English subtitles. Overall, if you like similar films in this genre, as I suspect My Sassy Girl will be when I review it next, you will not be disappointed.
You can purchase this title for $28.99 from Yes Asia.
Review by Casimir Harlow
Release Date: 26th May 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, DTS 5.1 Korean
Subtitles: Korean, English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Behind the Scenes Featurettes, Theatrical Trailers, Stills Montage, Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Park Kwang Choon
Cast: Kim Seon A, Nam Sang Mi, Cha Young Jae, Gong Yoo
Length: 114 minutes
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