Korean Movie Review – Punch Lady (펀치레이디)

Directed by Kang Hyo-jin, Action/Drama

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been slightly disappointed with a lot of the Korean films I’ve seen in the last few months. After scratching my head, wondering where the next Kim Ki-duk or Park Chan-wook were, I thought my wait for a great film was over when a friend of mine suggested I watch a film called “Punch,” (2011), which had been a success at several major Asian film festivals.

I eagerly accepted a copy of this feel-good film on DVD and was presented with the story of a mixed martial artist who physically and verbally abuses his wife on a daily basis.

He then kills her ex-boyfriend and accepts a challenge to fight his wife in the ring so he can kill her legally.

If you think this sounds like an odd premise to a feel-good film, you’d be right. Instead of Lee Han’s “Punch,” I’d been lent Kang Hyo-jin’s “Punch Lady” (2007). Mistake or practical joke? Have a look at the plot and decide for yourself.

As a child, Ha-eun witnesses her father beating a burglar to a pulp. He then inadvertently kills himself by falling off the bridge where he is beating said burglar. Growing up a frail and fearful woman, she finds herself in a relationship with an MMA fighter who uses her as a punching bag and forces their daughter to watch. Ha-eun finally snaps and challenges her husband to a match, which will keep her out of jail after he presses charges against her for a bout of self-defense. The winner will not only win bragging rights, but also custody of their child and the house they own. Winning seems near impossible when a case of mistaken identity leads Ha-eun to train with a math teacher with no fighting experience whatsoever.

I’m always willing to suspend disbelief during a film; I mean, I was willing to believe Don Cheadle was from England in “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), but this film takes the cake. How on earth are we supposed to believe that this fight would even take place, let alone fill a stadium?

The first two-thirds of the film are pointless. Until the final fight, the film is filler with the odd interaction to show Ha-eun as a vulnerable individual, ensuring our support for her in the final fight.

However, we found out in the first 10 minutes that the husband is a dick, and we were always going to root for her, unless you are a misogynistic arse. And the film does its best to imply that Korea is full of them.

If the film managed to raise awareness of a serious issue prevalent in society today, then great. But as a piece of entertainment? No thanks.

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