[Review] High Heel/Man on High Heels – 하이힐

THE MAKING OF A NON-STATEMENT

Detective Yoon Ji Wook (Cha Seung Won) is a stoic, hard-boiled detective who is not afraid to use his fists to catch criminals. Despite his masculine appearance, he struggles with his desire to become a woman. Although knee-deep in a major mob case, he makes the decision to undergo a sex change and makes plans to pack up his old life. Unfortunately, the people around Ji Wook get caught up in the conspiracy.

I probably should have watched the trailer for this movie before actually watching the movie. A few months back all I heard was Cha Seung Won in drag, Go Kyung Pyo and Jang Jin and I assumed comedy. It’s not.

Certainly, the movie doesn’t have to be a comedy in order to capture my interest since it’s a thought-provoking subject matter. However, it left me with questions about where the story was leading and what kind of statement it wanted to make about transgender people. Perhaps the point of the open-ended ending is to show the realistic side of how people go back and forth over this issue. I just don’t think that works for a movie.  If a two-hour film has us following a character who is struggling with their identity, that journey should take us somewhere. Unfortunately, the movie starts with a question and ends with that same question hanging over our heads. It’s a thoroughly unsatisfying ending to have that square one feeling.

Running parallel with the transgender storyline, we have the mobster storyline. Other than establishing how macho Yoon Ji Wook comes across, it’s not clear what purpose this story serves. Yes, our hero gets the bad guy and save the damsel, Jang Mi (Esom), and we do get enough of their backstory to understand Ji Wook’s connection to her and why he feels the need to risk his own life to save her. But does he come a better or happier person for it? I don’t know. Again, it’s just a looming question that movie never answers.

Instead, Heo Gon (Oh Jung Se), the mobster with a vendetta chooses to go after our hero after our hero quits the police force and decides to leave the country for his transformation. I’m sure people can argue insanity but really the incredibly violent fight scene seems superfluously provocative.  I don’t get Heo Gon’s purpose as the antagonist if the hero has made the decision to give up fighting crime. It’s all about the checks and balances and this is purely a pointless plot development.

And really, it’s the pointless plot development that creates so many holes in the story and spoils the movie. The fact that a Korean movie attempted this subject matter makes me want to give an extra banana for effort because Cha Seung Won’s performance is powerful enough that the pain he feels is palpable. However, the movie thoughtlessly takes his pain and stomps on it with the pointy heel of its stiletto shoes.

Rating

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