Dae-ho (played by Lee Sung-min) last had a chance to play hero was when he accidentally managed to nab Jong-jin (played by Cho Jin-woong), an idiot who got left holding the bag by some actual professionals. Now, when fate dictates that Dae-ho meets Jong-jin again, the latter man now a well respected businessman, Dae-ho concludes, logically, that Jong-jin was in fact the true evil genius all along. Throughout “The Sheriff In Town”, Dae-ho works tirelessly to prove this fact, even as everyone around Dae-ho concludes, just as logically, that Dae-ho has lost his marbles.
Tonally, “The Sheriff In Town” is a comedy. And really, it’s one of the best possible examples of how tonal management is the difference between a Hitchcockian suspense thriller and an outrageous comedic farce. Well, all right, admittedly “The Sheriff In Town” never really gets all that absurd. While Dae-ho does produce a lot of craziness with the constant tests he comes up with to prove Jong-jin is the villain once and for all, every other character effectively grounds Dae-ho by being a straight man.
This is also true of Jong-jin himself, who is exceptionally well-cast. Cho Jin-woong is generally known for comic, support or serious roles. I’m not sure he’s ever actually been a villain before, which is why the ambiguity over Jong-jin’s evilness is so well-played. Yeah the guy’s pretty huge and yeah, he has all the skills necessary to run a vast criminal empire, should he want to. But uh, the guy’s also a huge nice dork who seems, at all times, to be completely non-threatening.
Naturally praise must also go Lee Sung-min, whose generally psychopathic turn as Dae-ho really does beg the question of whether or not he’s supposed to be the good guy. I especially like how we’re always getting a good luck at Dae-ho’s warts- metaphorical warts I mean. Dae-ho’s vanity, his quest for recognition, his general disregard of every person around him, constantly make the true nobility of his goal easy to call into question.
It’s also very narratively essential that Dae-ho be unlikable because the vast majority of the jokes in “The Sheriff In Town” are of the comeuppance variety. Dae-ho’s weird investigation techniques constantly result in him suffering immediate horrible slapstick blowback. At times this is even worse for Dae-ho’s brother-in-law/fellow cop Deok-man (played by Kim Sung-kyun), which also manages to humanize Dae-ho a fair amount. Dae-ho can’t be all that bad, if Deok-man is willing to put up with him.
Although really, I may be giving writer/director Kim Hyeon-joo-II too much credit. While all the jokes are recognizable as jokes, and I do chuckle even now thinking about how gleefully stupid Dae-ho and Deok-man are in pursuit of their ill-suited goal, when I was actually watching “The Sheriff In Town”, the only time I went above smile to laugh was that fantastic visual gag at the tail end of the emptied tourist bus and subsequent street brawl. So did I have fun? Well…yes, yes I did actually.
Review by William Schwartz
“The Sheriff In Town” is directed by Kim Hyeong-joo-II and features Lee Sung-min, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Sung-kyun, Kim Jong-soo, Jo Woo-jin, Lim Hyun-sung and Bae Jung-nam.
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