"I am a man who reeks of gunpowder. Maybe my soul reeks of it too… How I wish I'd met her before I committed my first murder."
Hye-young, (Jeon Ji-hyun), is a South Korean woman living in Amsterdam who spends her days working in her grandfather’s antique shop, her nights painting in preparation for her first exhibition and her weekends working as a street painter. While sketching portraits for tourists in the city she meets Jeong-woo, (Lee Sung-jae), who unbeknownst to her is actually an Interpol agent tracking Asian criminals in the Netherlands. Hye-young comes to believe that Jeong-woo is the mystery person who has been sending her flowers regularly at her grandfather’s shop and slowly the two begin to fall in love. However, the man sending the flowers is actually Park Yi, (Jung Woo-sung), an assassin working for a Chinese crime syndicate who has been watching her from afar for some time. Once he makes himself known a love triangle inevitably results and, as the two men career towards a face-off, Hye-young must try to work out which of them is the love of her life…
Daisy is the result of a collaboration between Kwak Jae-young (My Sassy Girl) and Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) and as such it will come as no surprise that the production values on show are everything you could hope for and more. This film looks amazing and Andrew Lau's keen sense of image structure can clearly be seen throughout. Setting the film in Amsterdam was an inspired move, the beauty of the city sparks feelings of romance from the first scenes and the use of a European setting mixed with East Asian sensibilities all add up to Daisy being a stunningly beautiful film. However, considering the beauty of the visuals, it is unfortunate that there are problems with both the plot itself and the way it is relayed.
The stories of the three main characters are told by way of first person narrations and though films such as My Sassy Girl (the script of which was also written by Kwak Jae-young) employed this device deftly the voiceovers on Daisy are somewhat heavy-handed in comparison, each starting out with promise and even moments of brilliance (such as the "gunpowder" dialogue) which all too quickly descend into being nothing more than descriptions of what can already be seen happening on screen. This occurs repeatedly throughout the film and one can't help but feel that the makers are deliberately leading the audience through the story by the hand - which, it has to be said, is entirely unnecessary as the plot is essentially melodrama by numbers and it's pretty obvious where the story is heading as soon as we discover the careers of Jeong-woo and Park Yi. There are also several lapses in logic as the film climaxes which really don't ring true. Not wishing to have a spoiler-laden review prevents me from discussing some of them but the following will give you an idea of what I mean: In the market square, when the police are desperately searching for a sniper, Hye-young sees a reflection of light on the wall of the opposing building and instantly knows that it's a reflection from the assassin's rifle and that he is about to fire his weapon; outside Hye-young's apartment, when she is trying to convince Jeong-woo not to leave, she does everything she can to try to attract his attention as he walks away but it never seems to occur to her that it might be a good idea to run after him (he is only a few feet away after all) and; Hye-young taking the discovery that she has been dating a killer almost in her stride is frankly impossible to believe. As well as all of the above there are a few choices made by the filmakers which simply do not work. For example: a narration from a character, after he has been killed, describing his death while the camera zooms in on his grave and; when Hye-young searches the boat for evidence and remembers the store room from her previous visit a loud "ping" sound can be heard as her memory flashes back. I'm almost surprised a light bulb didn't appear flashing above her head with the word "eureka" written in the subtitles.
All this is made even more unfortunate by the fact that with minimal changes to the narrations and a couple of minor cuts to the logic hoop-jumping Daisy would have been a vastly improved film. The character development is intelligently built with enough time being devoted to the growing love affairs before each character's full agenda is revealed and each of the performances of the main cast is exemplary. However, even with the drawbacks detailed above the film is still very watchable and though viewers may not be utterly gripped by it they will certainly have their attention gently held for a couple of hours of enjoyable escapism.
The entire main cast give quality performances and there is obvious chemistry between all three. Jeon Ji-hyun is quite simply a master of this type of role (her performance bringing to mind her portrayal in Il Mare with the added experience of age) and is a joy to watch throughout. Jung Woo-sung further cements his place as an upcoming star in South Korean cinema and both he and Lee Sung-jae bring very genuine and emotionally rich performances to their characters. In fact the quality of the portrayals is largely what makes the film as engaging as it is.
Daisy would be an stunningly beautiful, engaging love story and suspenseful thriller if not for the lapses in logic and the fact that the narration pushes itself too far and takes itself a little bit too seriously. If, at some stage, a slightly altered version was to be released which addressed these issues then that would be a Daisy really worth watching.
Actors .... Role:
Jeon Ji-hyun …. Hye-young
Jung Woo-sung …. Park Yi
Lee Sung-jae …. Jeong Woo
David Chiang …. Cho
Jeon Ho-jin …. Detective Jang
Dion Lam …. Yun Joon-ha
Director: Andrew Lau
Screenplay: Kwak Jae-young
The DVD used for this review is the Director's Cut, Hong Kong Edition (Region 3), release which has an anamorphic transfer presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and really does justice to the beautiful cinematography. The sound is provided as a choice of Dolby DTS, Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 and is crisp and clear throughout. The DVD also has excellent subtitles for both the main feature and the extras.
A nice extra touch for English speaking audiences is to be found in the Making Of Featurette where there are several clips showing Jeon Ji-hyun speaking English to Andrew Lau and others. She shows herself to have a great sense of humour and makes some genuinely witty comments in a language which is still relatively new to her.
Language: Korean, Cantonese
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Country of Origin: Hong Kong release of a South Korean film
Picture Format: NTSC
Disc Format: DVD
Number of discs: 1
Region Code: 3
Publisher: Edko Films Ltd.
Making Of Featurette
Cast and Crew Filmographies