Saturday, September 26, 2009

Attack the Gas Station

I often speak of the amazing violence and rage of late 90s/early 00s Korean film, and Attack the Gas Station (1999) is a prime example. While far more light-hearted than something like Peppermint Candy or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, this comedy nevertheless exhibits the same explosive quality, a product of nearly a century of political repression.

The story is straightforward enough: Four tough misfits from divergent backgrounds (a baseball player, a rocker, a painter and a formidable goofball) decide to rob a gas station, and wind up staying all night. They've hit this place before, you see, trashing it in the process, and the boss is wise; he's given the day's receipts to his wife, leaving nothing for our petulant protagonists. So they decide to hang around and collect what comes in. Fair enough, but things get complicated, as employees and difficult customers are held hostage, local cops get suspicious, and conflicts develop between the fearsome foursome and a collection of high school bullies, gangsters and scooter-driving Chinese food delivery boys. Tension mounts, and what started out as a simple premise becomes an epic of political allegory and high farce (with tons of fighting, property damage, huge bowls of noodles and bad singing).

Fans of Oldboy will recognize Yu Ji-Tae, the villain of that film, here with his hair dyed white as Paint, the artistic member of the group. The aforementioned formidable goofball is played by the unforgettable Yu Oh-seong, who also turns in a great performance in the poorly-titled yet compelling gangster saga Friend (Chingoo, 2001).

I saw Attack the Gas Station years ago, thought of it quite a bit since and finally bought a copy. I suggest you do the same. You'll love it, plus you never know when this stuff will go out of print. One thing: The dimwits at Media Blasters set the default audio to the English dubbing. Do I have to tell you to switch it to Korean and turn the subs on? Good, didn't think so.

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