[director Cho Jin-Gyu]
Color 110 min
It's an intriguing idea, a kind of inversion of Shaw's "Pygmalion" set in the Korean gangster underworld. And My Wife is a Gangster has one of the best looks and styles of the year, coupled with a collection of charming performances by a very talented cast that has great chemistry together. But somehow the movie refuses to come together. And once you've laughed uproariously at the first hour of the film and held your breath for the second hour, you end up wondering what it was all about.
There is a basic problem with the tone of the film, which runs from adrenaline-pounding scenes of combat (some of the slickest fight scenes ever filmed) to punchy, anarchic comedy. When the film somersaults into gut-wrenching pathos the tonal shift seems entirely innapropriate. After director Jo Jin-gyu and writers Kang Hyo-Jin and Kim Moon-Sung have gone out of their way to glamorize the gangsters, they turn around and condemn the violence they've been presenting with such comic-book vigor. And after the anti-violence message gets effectively communicated, they turn around and head back to anarchy with a non-sensical ending.
The basic plot. Shin Eun-Kyung is Mantis, a militantly macho young woman who just showed up at a gang rumble one day and saved a gang from certain desctruction. Quickly she rose to be the interim leader of the group. An orphan, Mantis suddenly locates her long-lost sister, who is, conveniently for plot purposes, dying of leukemia. The peaceful, saintly sister's last wish is to see Mantis happily married, and so Mantis decides