My Wife Is A Gangster 2 (조폭 마누라 2 – 돌아온 전설, Jeong Heung-sun: 2003)
When female gang boss Eun-jin is involved in a fall from a building she is miraculously unhurt except for one small problem – she has lost her memory and has no recollection of who she is. Taken home and cared for by Yoon Jae-Choi, the owner of a local restaurant, Eun-jin settles into her new life working hard and delivering food to customers – although she is, understandably, troubled by her lack of memories. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t take too long for aspects of her past life to slowly make themselves known, both in her own mind and in her local neighbourhood…
The inevitable sequel to the blockbuster hit My Wife Is A Gangster, this follow-up attempts to set up a whole new domestic situation to throw our aggressive gangster Eun-jin into, and keeps its fingers crossed for some similarly hilarious results. Unfortunately though this time around the mix isn’t as fresh and My Wife Is A Gangster 2 proves to be quite a mixed bag.
From the outset of My Wife Is A Gangster 2 it’s clear that this isn’t going to pick up from the moment that the credits rolled on the last installment. The sequel appears to have a larger budget as we open on a large scale and impressive fight scene on a rooftop. After a few minutes of the rival gangs laying into each other, Eun-jin arrives in a big way and proceeds to kick her fair share of rival gangster backsides. Almost immediately Eun-jin is targeted and attacked, leading to her fall from the building (in some Matrix Reloaded type special effects) and through a chain of events manages to come down to earth a fair distance away but relatively unscathed. From here on in My Wife Is A Gangster 2 dives into its domestic comedy for the majority of its running time before the inevitable two lives of Eun-jin (or Tsu Tsu as she’s known while working in the restaurant) come clashing back together.
While it’s not an entirely terrible idea to try to inverse the situation comedy of the original film, the film-makers of My Wife Is A Gangster 2 appear to have tried to repeat the formula that successfully meshed genres but have taken away some of the ingredients that made the original so much fun. The first disappointment is in the lack of Kim Moon-sung. His character Kang Su-il – seen as part of the gang at the end of the first film – is referred to only in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flash of a photograph and a throwaway line of dialogue about ‘being married’. My Wife Is A Gangster 2 largely ignores the events of the first film in this respect (I guess it keeps the new plot simpler) but its a shame that the follow-up couldn’t tidy things away in a cleverer manner. Also missed are a few characters from the original gang – although understandably it makes little sense to dwell on them given the storyline.
Over onto the more positive aspects of the sequel – we do, of course, have Shin Eun-gyeong reprising her role as Eun-jin. Once again Shin Eun-gyeong shows her skills at comedy and she manages to deliver some good laughs throughout, even though this time around she doesn’t have the same dynamic of being able to bounce off of a character (and actor) as fun as Kang Su-il. Also back is Jang Se-jin as the slimy rival gang boss White Shark, and the good news is that he’s given more screen time in the sequel. He also has long hair which somehow manages to add to his creepiness and is more than worthy of this mention. Then there’s Choi Eun-joo and Shim Won-cheol who make cameo appearances, showing up to repeat some of their jokes from the first film (if only to remind us that it’s a continuation) but they’re more than welcome faces.
The new supporting cast is merely okay this time around, mainly because they’re not given a whole lot to do and not through any real fault of their performances. It’s only really Park Joon-gyu who gets to do much of anything as restaurant owner Yoon Jae-choi – although the character falls victim of some of the sloppy plotting in the final half an hour. A special mention must go to Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who makes a (very) brief cameo appearance. You would think from the publicity and promotional materials that she’s a major character (my UK release lists her name above the title alongside Shin Eun-kyungs!), but she’s here for nothing more than a quick scene at the end of the film which was supposed to be more of a teaser for a third part – something which did not happen as the third film in the series is a sequel in name only and stars Shu Qi, with neither Shin Eun-gyeong or Zhang Ziyi returning.
Sadly My Wife Is A Gangster 2 simply doesn’t work as well as the original. While the uneven tone of the first film always worked in its favour, here it feels sloppy and the plot seems to fall completely apart in the final half an hour. There’s also a cartoon feel to some scenes – such as Enu-jin attempting to electrocute herself in order to bring back her memory – which work as stand-alone moments, but within the tone of the whole film they simply add to the scatter shot approach to the material. My Wife Is A Gangster 2 isn’t a terrible film – for all of my criticisms there’s still plenty to enjoy here – it’s just a shame it’s so run-of-the-mill and strains itself for laughs where it should be fresh and fun. Directed by Jeong Heung-sun it sadly suffers from the same problems of his earlier film Marrying The Mafia – there’s plenty of amusing moments but a tighter reign on the script and the pacing may have made this a little more special.
조폭 마누라 2 – 돌아온 전설 (My Wife Is A Gangster 2)
Directed by Jeong Heung-sun
Produced by Lee Sun-yeol
Written by Choi Hae-cheol
Starring Shin Eun-gyeong, Jang Se-jin, Park Joon-gyu, Choi Eun-joo, Shim Won-cheol
My Wife Is A Gangster 2 Image © Hyun Jin Cinema Co. Ltd