"This is the day you leave forever... The 49th day. But I'll see you before you go."
Kyung-jin (Jeon Ji-hyun) is a feisty and fearless police officer in Seoul’s police department. While chasing a thief on her day off, she accidentally apprehends Myung-woo (Jang Hyuk), a physics teacher at an all-girls school who was actually trying to catch the real criminal. Initially arrested and subsequently released (once this case of mistaken identity is eventually resolved), Myung-woo returns to the police station a few days later to undertake a kind of community service, only to find that his “partner” is none other than Kyung-jin. He grudgingly accompanies her on her rounds but, by the end of their evening together - inadvertently being handcuffed together for the majority of it - Myung Woo has clearly begun to fall for the sassy policewoman. However, just as their relationship begins to blossom, fate steps in to alter things dramatically…
With the phenomenal success of My Sassy Girl (2001) - to date, the best selling Korean DVD of all time - it is natural to assume that Kwak Jae-young was keen to capitalise on its success and, after a brief side-step into romantic melodrama with The Classic (2003), he attempted to do exactly that with Windstruck.
Once again starring Jeon Ji-hyun, and telling the story of a feisty female (with a past full of heartache) falling in love - with all the requisite ongoing trials and tribulations - the plethora of similarities to, and elements from, My Sassy Girl are impossible to deny, or ignore, and though this might initially appear to be a boon to proceedings, sadly, a rather lackluster, predictable plot and diminished emotional resonance only serve to leave Windstruck as rather the cinematic poor relation of the family.
Beginning with a scene showing Kyung-jin jumping from the roof of a city skyscraper, to the strains of a cover version of Knocking On Heaven's Door, the story is subsequently told in flashback complete with (as is the case in so many of Kwak Jae-young's films) narration from one of the main characters, and while this character overdubbing is, thankfully, nowhere near as overused as it was in his later work Daisy (2006 - screenplay by Kwak Jae-young, directed by Andrew Lau), it nonetheless gives an early indication that Windstruck is set to tick virtually all of the boxes in a "Kwak Jae-young Plot Devices" handbook:
As already stated, the main female character in Windstruck is outwardly feisty (legitimised here by her job as a police officer); she plays piano, allowing for the (yet again) almost mandatory mix of classical piano music and 60's pop songs in the soundtrack; and who she is as an individual has been largely affected by a heartache in her past.
However, the biggest problem with Windstruck is that it really doesn't know what type of film it's trying to be. In the early stages of the story, as the two main characters meet and become increasingly involved, we are shown a wacky, fairly funny, comedy but, though the main characters' various antics actually work relatively well, their effect is diminished by a less than smooth transition into a large montage section showing various scenes of Kyung-jin and Myung-woo together. Along with several high octane action sequences of which Hollywood would be proud (but featuring much stronger violence than a film such as this requires), these serve as the vast majority of Kyung-jin and Myung-woo's burgeoning romance scenes and while they are enjoyable enough, they never allow either enough of an emotional attachment to be made to the characters nor give sufficient believability in the depth of their feelings for each other - both of which are required to a large degree later in the story.
The dialogue also becomes peppered with overly contrived references to the wind - one line in particular positively screaming "This is where the plot is heading" - and, BANG!, we're into melodrama territory.
If you need more proof of Kwak Jae-young's My Sassy Girl preoccupation within Windstruck, then the final scene of the film will be all you require. It features a train station, a girl standing too near to the platform edge and a cameo appearance by... Well, you'll see when you watch the film. Though this scene was likely meant as a warm and humourous homage to Windstruck's illustrious predecessor, and a happy conclusion to the story, the overuse of mirrored ideas up until this point result in it feeling utterly contrived specifically to leave viewers with a much superior film in their minds.
Jeon Ji-hyun single-handedly makes Windstruck as enjoyable as it can possibly be. Her genuine aptitude for playing this type of character results in a virtually note-perfect performance throughout and, though there is never sufficient depth to the emotional elements to bring a grown man to tears (as she has managed to do on many previous occasions), she still succeeds in making Kyung-jin the most engaging of all the characters in the film.
Jang Hyuk (as Myung-woo) gives a decent enough performance, but he is utterly, and repeatedly, overshadowed by his co-star and never manages to make the character of Myung-woo stand out to any degree.
Though he and Jeon Ji-hyun are real life friends, the chemistry between the two of them onscreen fails to ever spark, let alone ignite, and we are once again left to draw what character empathy we can from Jeon Ji-hyun's performance alone.
A rather predictable script and jolting switches between genres diminish what would otherwise be an engaging story, and the constant mirroring of elements from My Sassy Girl are a constant reminder of all the things that Windstruck would have liked to have been.
edition reviewed here is the Korean version (Region 3) 2 Disc release
which has an anamorphic transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There are no image artifacts and no ghosting present, and the
picture remains consistently sharp and clear.
The original Korean
language soundtrack is provided as a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 and each is clear and expansive, giving full justice to the soundtrack of both classical piano music and 60's pop songs.
Excellent subtitles are provided
throughout the main feature but English-speaking viewers should note that, as with many Korean DVD releases, there are no subtitles available on any of the extras..
Making Of Featurette
Windstruck (DVD) 2-Disc (Korea Version)
Director: Kwak Jae-young
Subtitles: English, Korean, none
Country of Origin: South Korea
Picture Format: NTSC
Disc Format(s): 2-Disc DVD (Dual layer, single-sided)
Region Code: Region 3
Duration: 125 mins (approx.)