This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
If you’re still not convinced that all of the best ideas in cinema these days are coming from South Korea, this provides yet more evidence. Were this to come from a Hollywood scriptwriter, it would no doubt treat the inmates of the sanatarium in which it’s set with a certain quiet dignity. It would show how their very human flaws are no worse than our so-called normal ones. Y’know, all that Rain Man horseshit.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance director Park Chan-Wook’s latest takes a more Nelson Muntz styled approach, which is to say that it stands around pointing and laughing at the crazy people. Ha! Losers! They’re not even sane! What larks.
It also takes anything approaching a plot and throws it out of the window, so if the following sounds a little disjointed it’s probably a very accurate interpretation. After her Grandmother is taken away by the men in white coats, Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim) suffers a slight psychotic break and thinks she’s really a cyborg. This doesn’t seem to concern anyone too much until the voices in her head tell her to wire herself up to the mains, at which point she’s moved to a nice safe place with no sharp edges.
In the nuthouse, she stops eating. Thinks she doesn’t need food, see. On account of her being a cyborg. However her alternate energy recharging scheme of licking nine volt batteries doesn’t see to be providing her with quite the energy boost she needs to function. Il-soon (Rain, seemingly. We should club together and buy him a surname), fellow looney and kleptomaniac master thief (so good he can steal things like ‘ability to play ping pong well’), decides to get her eating again before she starves herself to death.
The rest of the running time is taken up with flights of fancy, imagined killing sprees, the odd recitation of ‘Edelweiss’ and generally laughing at the crazy people. If you think that all sounds a little like a arbitrary sequence of non-sequiturs masquerading as a plot, you’re really not far off.
The closest thing I can think of as a comparison would be Takeshi Miike’s offbeat Happiness of the Katakuris, but even despite its flights into fancy it still made a certain degree of sense and had a narrative to tie it together. I’m a Cyborg often feels more like a sketch show someone’s cudgelled into a feature format.
None of which would matter one whit if I’m a Cyborg was consistently brilliant, but this is sadly the most important feature that Chan Wook hasn’t carried trough from his recent successes. There are moments off sheer off-kilter lunacy where it’s deeply amusing, indeed more than enough to save the movie from being a total waste of celluloid. Not enough of them, however to fully ignore the inherent lack of purpose behind pretty much everything that goes on in the film.
There’s nothing wrong with being pointless. It’s largely the credo to which I live my life. However, having a point, or a plot, or some reason to care about and keep track of all of this wilful lunacy would help immensely. Okay, it’s funny enough to give it something of a free pass and enjoy the ride, and any lingering doubts on that score ought to be silenced by the glorious, technicoloured cinematography that’s extraordinarily distinctive. Yeah, there’s enough here to give I’m a Cyborg a guarded recommendation for fans of the bizarre.
There’s certainly not enough here to cover over the cracks in a deeply flawed film. This is something of a disappointment, given the tightly plotted near perfection of the director’s exhilarating Vengeance trilogy. In comparison this screwball comedy just doesn’t cut the mustard. So, if you need a mustard cutting implement, this isn’t it. Who on earth needs to cut mustard anyway? Wouldn’t it spread rather than cut anyway? I’m puzzled. At any rate, I’m a Cyborg is reasonably entertaining, but won’t set your world on fire. Which is probably just as well, given the state of the mustard.