Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Attorney: He Also Does Taxes
on who you ask, the late ROK President Roh Moo-hyun was either a principled
idealist or a corrupt demagogue. A new film unequivocally holds to the former
view. A thinly fictionalized Roh will argue a life-altering,
inspired-by-true-events case in Yang Woo-seok’s The Attorney (trailer
opens this tomorrow in New York.
though he never graduated from high school, Song Woo-seok became a self-taught
bar-certified attorney (sort of like Lincoln). He even briefly served as a
judge, but resigned to pursue a more lucrative practice, for the sake of his
family. Recognizing an early opportunity, Song becomes one of the first to take
advantage of a legal change allowing attorneys to register property deeds in
place of a notary. At first, the legal establishment is openly contemptuous of
the bounder. Then the business starts pouring in.
other attorneys starting competing for Song’s real estate business, so Song
once again makes a shrewd move into a tax practice. Ironically, when the
paper-pushing Song finally litigates a case, the fix is in right from the
start. In acknowledgement of a debt from
his early scuffling years, Song reluctantly agrees to represent Jin-woo, the
son of a forgiving noodle shop proprietor. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary
criminal case, but a dubious national security prosecution, with confessions
already lined up courtesy of the ruthless Captain Cha Dong-young.
it gets down to political business, The
Attorney is certainly not shy about waving the bloody martial law shirt.
However, the first half of the film is actually a rather touching story of hard
work and sacrifice rewarded, in the tradition of The Pursuit of Happyness.
Song Woo-seok (a fusion of the director and star’s names) is an earnest
everyman, who earns his piece of the pie the old fashioned (but unfashionable)
course, once the sainted Soon-ae’s son is arrested, The Attorney shifts into high moral outrage gear. Korean box office
superstar Song Kang-ho leaves it all on the field as his half namesake,
wringing all the righteous indignation and heroic sincerity he can out of the
courtroom cross examinations. At least Yang and co-writer Yoon Hyun-ho step
back from the Few Good Men, acknowledging
an experienced government employee like Cha will never cop to ordering a “Code
Red” on the stand.
of Song Kang-ho, Korea’s top domestic movie star, should probably seek out The Attorney, despite its excesses,
because there is no telling how much of him will be left once Harvey Weinstein
finishes editing Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer
with a hacksaw. Yet, it is veteran actress Kim Young-ae who really instills
the film with dignified sensitivity as honorable gravitas as Soon-ae. It is
also amusing to see Oh Dal-su (Oldboy’s sleazy
private prison warden) do his shtick as Song-Woo-seok’s sitcomish office
manager. Unfortunately, Kwak Do-won (a great villain in A Company Man) largely phones in Cha, the cold fish.
In a way, The
Attorney sort of confirms the theory political liberty inevitably follows
economic liberty. After all, Song
Woo-seok sure is busy with real estate transactions in the early 1980’s. While
the performances are mostly quite impressive, it never really captures the
telling period details. Without the narrative reference points, viewers might mistake
it for a contemporary legal drama. While it is sure to stoke political debate
in Korea, The Attorney is only
recommended for American viewers with a crack cocaine level addiction to legal
table-pounding melodramas when it opens tomorrow (2/7) in New York at the AMC
Labels: Korean Cinema, Song Kang-ho