Je-in (played by Ha Ji-won) is a murder mystery writer who has been on a long slump. The main reason behind said slump is that Je-in is for some neurotic reason completely obsessed with ferreting out largely imaginary murders in the real world, a task in which her beleaguered best friend policeman Rok-hwan (played by Cheon Jeong-myeong) reluctantly assists, to his scorn in the department. The plot in “Life Risking Romance” kicks off when Je-in finally notices that there is, in fact, a real-life serial killer currently operating in Itaewon and maybe she should investigate that instead. For research material, of course.
That’s where we get Jason (played by Chen Bolin), an FBI agent who’s working on an American case very similar to the Itaewon serial killings. He’s an FBI agent because no one knows or cares what section of the Taiwanese government is responsible for investigating serial killers, and this leads to one of the movie’s biggest flaws- the English. All of Cheon Bolin’s dialogue is in English, and he speaks it very poorly. So does Ha Ji-won, although her English language acting isn’t quite as bad.
Aside from some fantastically dumb pick-up lines, they mainly just discuss criminal psychology. The material is potentially interesting. But especially presented as it is in subpar English, the discussion ends up being horribly mundane. Likewise, Je-in’s Korean language discussion of murder mystery plots is just too bare-boned to be of any particular interest, and only really calls attention to how basic the premise of “Life Risking Romance” really is.
By contrast, a focus on actual evidence, a crucial aspect to any good murder mystery, is conspicuously absent. Airtight evidence proving the identity of the true culprit appears rather late in “Life Risking Romance”, even though said evidence had been collected fairly early in the story. It’s just, the test results were withheld for the sole purpose of creating tension as Je-in gets involved in more wacky hijinx.
Said wacky hijinx have less to do with actually finding the killer and more with allowing Je-in to bounce off of Rok-hwan and Jasonin romantic comedy fashion. But the romance, too, is largely at a standstill because until the murder mystery is solved, the love triangle has that very obvious cloud hanging over it. Wecan’t start seriously seeing any of the men in “Life Risking Romance” in a romantic lightwhen at any time a new revelation could pop out of nowhere implying that he is a murderer.
So having generally failed as either a romance or a mystery what does “Life Risking Romance” have going for it? I guess…jokes? Kind of? There’s a few hits in there but by and large they’re just misses. Honestly, probably the best one just involves some random foreigners talking like cranky Korean barflies. Yes, I suppose that qualifies as bizarre praise- “Life Risking Romance” is probably the only piece of Korean media I’ve seen where the foreign actors speak better Korean than they do foreign languages.
Review by William Schwartz
“Life Risking Romance” is directed by Song Min-gyo and features Ha Ji-won, Cheon Jeong-myeong, Chen Bolin and Oh Jung-se.
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