Length: 100 minutes
Director: Lee Cheol-ha
Writer: Shin Hyun-Sung
Cast: Uhm Jeong-hwa, Park Sung-woong, Lee Sang-yun, Bae Jung-nam, Lee Sun-bin
Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Okay! Madam is one of those movies where they try to hide a blatant twist from you by dressing up the beginning in as boring a fashion as possible, before pulling an amazing revelation that explodes into an action bonanza. The problem, of course, arises when the first act kills any interest you have in the movie, and ends up being being more detrimental to the film because you're not just apathetic to the characters by the time the real meat of the film starts — you actively dislike them.
Okay! Madam is a Korean action comedy about a struggling middle-class family with a young daughter in school. Even though the wife sells bread-sticks and the husband repairs computers, they've barely been able to get by and it's been years since they've been able to afford going on a holiday. Their luck changes one day when they win a tickets for a trip to Hawaii — only to have their plane hijacked in mid-air. There's more than meets the eye to the couple when they end up rescuing the passengers on the plane in the most unexpected way possible.
Take away the first 40 minutes of Okay! Madam, and you'd have a pretty decent action comedy that's fast-paced, funny, and a rollicking good ride with shenanigans aboard a plane. There's even a twist in the tale (after the first major twist in the tale) regarding the antagonists and their actual objectives, and the plot throws curveballs at you even until the very end.
It's the first act of Okay! Madam that's an absolute chore to plough through. Nobody will blame you for wanting to walk out within the first ten minutes, because all of the characters are gratingly irritating. The characters have virtually zero redeeming qualities, and it seems that we are supposed to pity them just because they're poor, not because they're innately kind, good or even decent. It's literally about their boring, humdrum lives which could be condensed into a montage that would have gotten the point across just as well, without all the blabbering.
So when they do end up winning a prize for their dream vacation, you end up secretly wishing they didn't, since they’re so unlikeable. It's a terrible thing when a movie makes its viewers hate its protagonists, because the jokes cease to be funny and end up making you want to tear your eyes out. It's only around the 37th minute that something actually piques your interest, because that's when secrets are slowly revealed and there's the barest hint of curiosity aroused.
Then the movie swings in the complete opposite direction. Suddenly, everyone has a secret. Suddenly, there's conspiracy and intrigue everywhere. Suddenly there's actual action and actual stakes involved. And this would be fun, exciting, even wonderful to watch — if not for the fact that the exciting part of the film needs to spend time winning your love for the characters, since it destroyed any goodwill you had for them at the beginning.
Either it's a badly written script, or producers tacked a boring 40 minute intro to what would otherwise have been a fairly good hour-long action comedy. It's this structural issue with film that destroyed what was a pretty interesting premise to begin with.
The film's set pieces have to be commended though — rarely do films involving a plane show anything more than the passenger area and the cockpit. Okay! Madam actually showcases other, interesting locations on the plane, such as a baggage area, air ducts and other unique locations that you don't get to see in other movies with planes in them. In this respect, the film is fairly interesting, although it's not enough to make up for the earlier boring bits.
Okay! Madam could have been a great film, if it had the courage to trim the fat and deliver a shorter, sharper, and more satisfying movie. Its big twist is well handled and pretty exciting, and the movie becomes watchable in the second half. Take your time, stroll in 40 minutes late, and you might just find yourself liking Okay! Madam more than if you had started from the beginning.
Okay! Madam opens in cinemas on:
24 September 2020 (Singapore)
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