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Here, his casting of Ha Jung-woo and Jeon Ji-hyun is excellent.
Ha may not be as brilliant as, say, Song Kang-ho, in conveying tormented psychological inner workings of the outwardly taciturn warrior, but he still commands the screen with bristling charisma (one of his best-known, pre-stardom stage roles, by the way, was, appropriately, Othello).
He urges her to buy his masterwork, "Instructions on How to Use Men," telling her that it will change her life, and give her the skills she needs to find success and happiness. Director Lee Won-suk, a graduate of the American Film Institute, maintains great comic timing and even manages to keep the audience's interest in the final reels, which are a weak point of many Korean romantic comedies.
Boosted by great performances and a multitude of gags that are genuinely funny, the film produced strong word-of-mouth among viewers, though not soon enough to save it in a month when it was sharing screens with box office behemoths The Berlin File, New World and Miracle in Cell No. Much of the buzz surrounding this film centers on the two charismatic leads.
Casually disregarded by her work colleagues, she knows that her career is going nowhere, but there's nothing she can do about it. Stranded on a beach in the middle of nowhere, she comes across an eccentric middle-aged man selling inspirational videos. How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is in some ways a fairly standard Korean romantic comedy, except that it's funnier and more engaging, and ultimately much better than you would expect.Another problem is the strangely unconvincing characterization of Han Suk-kyu's Agent Jeong, compared to his Northern counterparts. DP Choi Young-hwan (The Thieves), reunited with Ryoo after a decade following their collaboration in No Blood No Tears (2002), and Lighting Director Kim Seong-gwan portray Berlin, through impressively extensive location shooting, as a city pregnant with old secrets, bustling with busy population yet pocketed with dark corners and wood-paneled back rooms.The hand-to-hand combat choreography, designed by Ryoo's longtime collaborator Jeong Doo-hong and Seoul Action School, actually works better when it is essentially two people smashing each other with various kitchen implements and office tools in a narrow apartment corridor.Praise is also due to the veteran Park Young-gyu (Attack the Gas Station), who plays the video salesman and appears as the presenter in the video segments themselves.These short instructional clips, which run intermittently throughout the narrative, are deadpan, intentionally amateur in style, and hilarious.What I actually saw, however, was nothing like that.On the contrary, Ryoo's film departs from most current South Korean hits featuring North Korean agents, such as Secret Reunion (2010) and Secretly, Greatly (2013), in that he eliminates South Korea as a site of consumer-capitalist everyday activity into which pretty boy Northern agents have to assimilate themselves.In the end, exciting and beautifully rendered as they are, I cannot help wonder if the movie really needed these head-spinning action set pieces.All in all, The Berlin File is a flawed but terrific and gutsy espionage film.Lee Si-young has an unusual star image: she is unique in simultaneously pursuing a career as an actress, while also competing as an amateur boxer.Lee originally learned boxing as part of her preparation to act in a TV drama, but then she continued training and eventually won several amateur boxing championships in the 48kg weight category.