Man on High Heels:

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I must say this was a very interesting movie. It was something that I passed the first time around, but came back due to Cha Seung Won’s acting reputation. The movie juxtaposes two very different topics, homicide crime and transgenderism. Cha Seung Won plays Ji-Wook, a revered homicide detective whose reputation is the “manliest of all men”. The gangster world is completely afraid of him and his fighting prowess. We are treated to multiple excellently choreographed fight scenes where Ji-Wook bests 20+ men with minimal injuries. Fan-service provides us with a beautiful view of his chiseled body with multiple scars from his various fights.

However, slowly we learn that this is just on the surface. Starting from his childhood, he had fallen with his best friend, who happened to be a boy. As much as he loved this other boy, he could not accept himself socially and emotionally. This other boy opened his eyes to love and broadened his view of the world. Their relationship ended tragically as the other boy committed suicide and left behind a sister.

Fast forward to the present, Ji-Wook secretly keeps a watch over the younger sister and protects her. He is reminded much of his childhood friend through her. Everyday he eternally fights with the “woman” inside him, wanting to change his sex, but still afraid to. With guidance under a transgender woman, who shows him the realities of undergoing the surgeries and life afterwards, he is still willing to go through them to reveal his true self. He quits his detective job and resists the gangster world’s bribe for him to join them.

Unfortunately, the gangsters do not give up and kill one of his good cop buddies and kidnaps the sister just as he was about to board the plane for his surgeries. He decides to go back and try to rescue the sister. He fights his way through the millions of minions and manages to best the leader. All is well ends well….except the ending. The ending was kind of disappointing for me, but also makes a little sense I suppose.

Let’s talk about this ending. So after all that angst and internal conflict, you would have expected him to go through the surgeries to reveal his true self in the end right? Maybe that is my idealistic thinking and what I wanted for Ji-Wook for his peace of heart. He had pushed himself so hard to be masculine because he thought it was wrong to feel like a woman. He even was able to walk in public for awhile in the feminine clothes he liked. Was it all for naught? Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where transgenderism is accepted. Remember Leela Alcorn, the transgender girl who was suppressed all her life and now Bruce Jenner who was held prisoner in her own flesh? Although the US is becoming more tolerant in these issues, it is still a slow process of equality. I feel like LGBTQ is even more socially unaccepted in Asia, with an exception in Thailand. Even then, transgenderism is still a taboo issue and not looked well upon in society. Now for Ji-Wook, is it because the movie showed the reality of life for transgender women who often cannot get decent jobs, that he decided not to get the surgeries? At the end, he is still the oppa on the outside to the sister and had even grown a beard. However, we see that dainty pinky raise at the end? I’ll take it as a open ending that he is just not ready yet to be his true self or what do you guys think?

As for Cha Seung Won’s acting, it is impeccable. After watching Best Love with him and Gong Hyo Jin, I had him in my mind as literally the manliest of all men. With his scruffy beard, husky voice, and amazing physique, he was a specimen to behold. I had never imagined him in this unique type of role. He portrayed a feminine side that I thought would be impossible for him. It was portrayed delicately and not in a flamboyant manner, thank god. The scenes where he reminisced to his past and his desperation from his internal conflict were really heartbreaking to watch. And wow, he was really pretty as well!

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Angry Mom: Kick Some Bully Butt!

Angry Mom

I love it. Darker than what I was expecting, but so meaningful. Again S. Korea is sparking awareness in another controversial issue, bullying (especially in the high school/adolescent period). Angry Mom is a story where a mom does everything in her power to protect her child. Her daughter, Oh Ah Ran, is a nice, smart high school student who isn’t afraid to befriend the outcast of the class. However, she is severely bullied by a group of girls and the “iljin jjang” (top dog, “gum chewer”) of the school. However, this is not your regular bullying that you are thinking about. This is a whole new level where the bullies draw blood and threaten death if the victim decides to tattle. Traumatized by one particularly violent episode, Ah Ran is admitted to the hospital. She isn’t forthcoming to her mother and misunderstands why her mother won’t tell anyone that she is her daughter. (I suspect from some shadowy flashbacks that her child may be an offspring of rape).

Her mother is so heartbroken as her daughter distances herself from her mother and as she slaves away day and night as a night diner owner to provide for her. While her mother tries all kinds of ways to bring justice such as reporting to police, department of education, etc., nothing works as money and power are the decision makers here. Pushed to the limit to bring justice for her daughter, she resorts to her own skills. In the past, she was the “jjang” of all the school distracts with mad fighting skills and a unbreakable attitude. She calls upon her past friends and decides to pretend to be a student in her daughter’s school to find out who the bullies are and bring justice. As she has a really young face, she manages to squeeze her way in before getting noticed by a new transfer homeroom teacher who mistakenly recognizes her as a foul-mouthed wild student he met at an academy. The drama also links deeper politics about corruption, politics, money laundering and the seedy underlife of bribes being filtered through school districts. Of course our school hijinks and the real world will come to a head gradually. The last scene in episode two we get is her headlocking her teacher and choke-holding the top “jjang” while the three girl bullies kneel on the ground. SO BADASS.

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