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The Aggressives (2005)

Taepungtaeyang (original title)
Soyo, a quiet teenager who was abandoned by his parents, sees his humdrum life change when he discovers the thrill of in-line skating.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Jong-hak Baek ...
Commercial Director
Jeong-myeong Cheon ...
So-yo
Jin-ho Choi ...
CM producer
...
Moggy
Sang-hyeok Kim
Cheon-hee Lee ...
Gap-ba
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Soyo, a quiet teenager who was abandoned by his parents, sees his humdrum life change when he discovers the thrill of in-line skating.

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2 June 2005 (South Korea)  »

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The Aggressives  »

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
It's no TAKE CARE OF MY CAT, but this skating melodrama deserves at least a little exposure
9 July 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I was completely blown away by South Korean director Jeong Jae-eun's debut feature TAKE CARE OF MY CAT (2001) when I saw it three years ago, and so being the consummate auteurist that I am, I had to hunt down her second (and to date, most recent) feature, 2005's THE AGRESSIVES. It took a while - the South Korean DVD probably went out of print not long after release and there is no other version apparently - but eventually I got a copy and I watched it tonight.

While the earlier film is about a group of teenage girls, just out of high school and unsure where to go in life, thinking about careers and college, this film focuses mostly on boys, and on a singular obsession: in-line skating. Soyo (Jeong-myeong Cheon) is fascinated by the world of skating, and the kids his age and a little older who practice and show off in public parks every day until the police show up. He's also fascinated by an aspiring filmmaker, Hanjoo (Yi-jin Jo) who is nice to him and encourages his skating - but not his advances. When his parents abandon him because of legal difficulties (somehow leaving him their nice apartment and enough money to live on for several months) he falls into the skating world hard, trying to catch up in experience - in more ways than one - with Moggy, Hanjoo's rather nihilistic boyfriend, and the slightly older Gabpa, seemingly the owner or manager of a skate park (it's never quite clear).

The first half or so of THE AGRESSIVES is relatively plot less and lyrical, mostly a string of skating sequences and little bits of the lives of the four main characters and a few other friends, as they skate, escape police, and find other places in the great urban wonderland of Seoul to play around in. Jeong shows here as in her earlier feature a remarkable feel for the textures of the modern city, it's architecture and colors and vitality, and the bright 'scope camera-work here is as inventive and lyrical as in TAKE CARE OF MY CAT, adding to it a powerful element of kinetic energy; the skating sequences, though mostly fairly brief, are pretty highly charged and there's a real youthfulness and sense of wonder to it all that really helps us connect to the mindset of these drifting - but generally carefree - kids. I like the cast a lot too; all of them seem relatively unaffected, none seem remotely star-like either in looks or in actions.

The carefree and directionless feel of the beginning gives way eventually to a more plot-oriented, and frankly conventional second half, in which the characters all start to realize that - guess what - they're growing up and probably can't keep doing this forever. Gabpa dreams of sending skaters to a World Championship in LA, but his mandatory army enlistment is always a moment away; and Moggy's carelessness eventually gets the whole group in trouble and causes estrangement. Though many of the developments feel organic and some resolutions (like the Moggy-Hanjoo-Soyo love triangle) are unexpected, still overall the film seems less cohesive and less interesting even as the plot becomes more central, perhaps because we haven't really gotten to know any of the characters beyond some very superficial surface brush-strokes. Still there are a couple of terrific lengthy skating scenes towards the end - one to a cover of The Beatles' "Across the Universe", and even when Jeong's ideas don't entirely work, her direction and command of the cinematic space, color and framing never falter. Though this doesn't come close to her first film - my favorite cinematic debut of the last decade - it's still fairly ambitious cinematically and generally successful on it's own terms I think, and THE AGRESSIVES confirms Jeong as one of the most exciting young directors working today. I sure hope this isn't the last we hear from her.


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