While cartooning is generally thought of as a medium for children, as long as there have been cartoons, there have been crude distorted versions. The twenty-first century has been very kind to crude cartoons, as technology advances have made it easy for anyone to make static, repetitive animations which shock via overt graphic violence and explicit sexual titillation. Gag Powerful Man” is a traditionally Korean themed version of such a cartoon, in feature length form.
One aspect of such cartoons is that they are almost always extremely short- there’s only so many times blood can spurt from the ruptured appendage of a loud, obnoxious man with a hideous facial expression before the novelty wears off. So it took me a moment to realize that “Gag Powerful Man” was in fact a feature length film rather than a collection of shorts- the characters are such thin shallow caricatures it’s hard to visualize them engaging in the same plot for more than ten minutes at a time.
And in practice they don’t really. After the first initial encounter between a few clumsy gangsters and a couple of much prettier characters, “Gag Powerful Man” quickly turns into a revolving door as more and more random characters come out of the woodwork for a mysterious plot device which sits in the corner unnoticed. There’s…let’s see, the short crazy old man with old man superpowers, the huge crude Buddhist monk with similar spiritual superpowers, the martial arts girl group, the ten scholars, the vampire (?), others I’m sure I’m forgetting.
We never identify with any of these weird people, though, as the audience analog is instead the crowd of extras. They just stare in bewilderment at all the crazy stuff that’s happening at the inn, torn between their desire to spectate and also their desire to maybe leave the place alive at some point. But again, “Gag Powerful Man” is just crude humor in constant succession, so it’s not like the survival of any of the characters is ever taken seriously.
The actual quality of the jokes in question is…variable. I remember laughing at some of them at the time, but overall director Oh In-yong relies entirely on shock value to get his point across. Now that I know the jokes, they’ve lost what little lustre they had. It’s pretty clear that the intent behind certain shocking revelations or power was to make the viewer stare in horrified shock that yes, the story went there and wow, now everyone’s going to have to figure out a way to get back out again.
The traditional Korean aesthetic is the most powerful novelty “Gag Powerful Man” has to offer. However many “adult” cartoons of questionable quality you have seen in your life, it’s unlikely you have seen one rendered in this particular style. Beyond that novelty alone, though, there’s no real reason for anyone to want to watch “Gag Powerful Man”- it’s another one of those movies that’s more entertaining to ponder conceptually than it is to actually watch.
Review by William Schwartz
“Gag Powerful Man” is directed by Oh In-yong and voiced by Jung Ji-hyuck, Kim Chang-hoo, Park Joo-gwang, No Byeol-i, Kim Jeong-hoon-V and Ahn Hyo-min.
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