Ryu Seung-Beom (Blood Tie, Crying Fist), Shin Min-Ah (“A Love to Kill”, A Bittersweet Life), Kim Kang-Woo (The Aggressives, Silmido), Ahn Kil-Kang (The City of Violence, Crying Fist)
Han Jeong-Hyeob, Hwang Jo-Yoon (Old Boy, Do You Like Spring Bear?)
In a twist on the old fairytale, Shin Min-Ah plays blind jazz pianist Hae-Joo who is dating dubbing artist Dong-Gun (Ryu Seung-Beom). Known as “the Beast” because of his expertise at voicing monsters for The Power Rangers-ish show he works on, she loves his silly voices and the way he makes even the mundane seem romantic. To Hae-Joo he is everything that makes life perfect, but in his own eyes he’s a monstrous-looking animal that doesn’t deserve her. Both trouble and comedy arise when she announces she’s getting eye surgery to see again and he’s too cowardly to meet her. She’s under the misapprehension that he’s some kind of hottie, and as he notes, she’s soon going to discover that the world is not the beautiful place he’s made it seem for her.
While Dong-Gun pretends to be on business in Hawaii and gets plastic surgery with disastrously hilarious results, Hae-Joo adjusts to a life of sight, learns to read and write, and pines for him. One night she mistakes handsome young prosecutor Tak Jun-Ha (Kim Kang-Woo) for her wayward boyfriend and predictably, he jumps in to try and fill the vacancy. Poor Dong-Gun can only spy from the sidelines while he waits for his plastic surgery to heal. The whole situation gets out of hand when he accidentally becomes involved with a bit jopak (“Number 17 of the Dragon gang”) who’s scheming to ‘erase’ the prosecutor, and from that point things go from bad to worse to funnier!
Though the misunderstandings between Dong-Gun and Hae-Joo are quite humorous, it’s the gangster subplot which provides some of the best scenes in this (sometimes) romantic comedy. “Number 17” constantly shadows the hero, trying to help him with his love life and getting him into more and more trouble (his stealthy “murder by shopping cart” is a classic everyone should see!) These scenes give Ryu an opportunity to display some of his excellent physical humour which we haven’t seen much of in the past few years. For an actor whose filmography is heavy with intense dramas (No Blood No Tears, Crying Fist, Bloody Tie, plus cameos in the “Vengeance” films) it’s ironic that many people still associate him with his loud-mouthed, obnoxious characters from Arahan and Conduct Zero (aka No Manners). It’s great to see him take a break from the darker films. Shin’s portrayal of Hae-Joo is also refreshingly funny as she turns out to be quite different from the wilting flower Dong-Gun and the audience expect her to be. Most movies present the handicapped girl as demure and angelic; this angel has sharp, pointed teeth, and she’s not afraid to use them!
While the story doesn’t really break any new ground and the message about beauty and the nature of attraction is *ahem* skin deep, The Beast and the Beauty is a very likeable, cute and occasionally hilarious film. The turn-about where the handsome guy has the unattractive personality while the average guy is a prince was a nice change of pace. The story did veer a bit off course at one point by trying to turn Tak into a nice guy after consistently demonstrating what a selfish lout he was. That said, my only real complaint is that the two leads have precious little screen time together as they seem to have pretty good chemistry. I’d love to see them do another comedy together.
*edited by Aziraphale