Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I hated this movie. I haven’t seen a movie out of South Korea yet that I’ve despised, though I have seen a couple that I wasn’t crazy about, And I’m on record for saying that the riskiest stuff showing up on screens today is coming right out of the land of the Morning Calm. But ‘Mapado’ would be the first one that I’ve seen that absolutely hated. And it has nothing to do with the acting, or the way the film was shot, or the comedy, direction, framing, pacing… all of that stuff was just fine but ultimately it was the ultimate resolution of message of the story that did it for me.

As ‘Mapado’ opens we meet The Boss (Dal-su Oh), a kindly man preparing dinner for his motley crew of what looks like hairdressers and nail technicians at his down stairs shop. Times are tough for this crew as The Boss laments back to the days when he used to be a law breaker and how much easier life was for him then. What he needs for his adopted family is big break, like winning the lotto or something. The Boss has a lucky feeling for the lotto today so he sends a pretty, but somewhat bitchy nail assistant played by Yeong-hie Seo to get this particular ticket because he feels she will bring him good luck. Well this is indeed what happens as the numbers that The Boss has playing since forever finally hit and there is joy and rejoicing as finally their problems are solved in the tune of sixteen million. At least they would be if this woman had returned back with the lottery ticket. Now I’m not sure if it’s sixteen million won, which about 17 thousand dollars, or 16 million dollars which is about 16 million dollars. Makes a big diff. Anyways the frantic boss calls corrupt cop Chung-su (Mun-shik Lee) and pairs him with his own trusted aide, the hunky reformed gangster Jae-Chul (Jeong-jin Lee) to track down this woman and bring back the ticket.

Of course things are complicated by the fact that Chung-su hung out Jae-chul to dry some years back as the man ended up doing four years in the clink. Regardless, their investigation eventually leads them to the remote island of Mapado where the woman, who’s real name Ggeut-sun is originally from. Here the comedy busts loose as this island is solely inhabited by five older hemp farming women who haven’t had a male visitors in quite a while. Hi-jinks and mayhem ensue as these crazy old ladies sexually harass the two dudes, put them to work in all kinds of tough manual labor, make them wear funny clothes, and accidentally attempt to kill them numerous times. The old ladies don’t quite know why the men are there, but there seems to be some resentment toward Ggeut-sun and her abandonment of the island, but they are still very protective of her. To the surprise of no one, the women start to grow on these dudes and they have a decision to make as Ggeut-sun eventually finds her way back to the island, along with the The Boss who has murder on his mind.

So why did I dislike this movie so much? The performances, particularly by the women playing the old ladies were very good. As a comedy, there were some lulls in parts, but there were also a few big laughs to be had as well, though most of it leaned towards the genre of slapstick. I mean an exploding toilet while one is taking a crap is about as slapstick as it gets. Director Chang-min Chu certainly made the beautiful scenery he was blessed with work to his advantage with lush forests and bluest of the blue oceans.

Here’s my issue, and these are certainly SPOILERS. The Boss in this film ultimately ends up being the bad guy, but why? Ggeut-sun is the one who stole the lottery ticket. Why did she steal the lottery ticket from these people who showed her graciousness, took her in, gave her a place to live and a job? No reason except basic greed. There was a scene later where Ggeut-sun was crying to her mother about all of the things she was going to do for her before she lost the ticket, but damn, she only came back to the island BECAUSE she lost the ticket. Otherwise she was on her way to destinations unknown. So The Boss comes to the island and he’s pretty much ready to kill the girl, not that anybody deserves to die, but I can feel his thought process here. In the process, the old ladies houses gets burned down, they get imprisoned, almost killed all because they choose to be loyal to this woman who has not been the least recalcitrant for what she has done, other than cry a lot because she’s about to be killed. And for no other reason than that.

So my problem, for this to work, is that I have to have sympathy for Ggeut-sun, for whom I have absolutely none, and I must have disdain for The Boss for whom I have all the sympathy for. Even more than the old ladies as The Boss was the most magnanimous and generous character in the film. And since the narrative in ‘Mapado’ hinges on just the opposite, I ended up hating this damn thing.

I know this flick made a ton o’ loot in its native land, so much so that a sequel is already been released, but count me out for that. This simple, silly, slapstick comedy actually managed to insult my good sense of loyalty, honor and justice. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have read that much into this simple silly film, but I did and I can’t recommend this thing to anyone because of it.

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