Trailing behind is the obese, somewhat slow-witted Kong (Jung Hee-Suk), who dreams only of girls and food (his overstuffed family runs a restaurant, and his fitful attempts at dieting are met with derisive laughter). Kong’s lame, low-pay jobs — at a coffee bar, a spit-and-polish gas station and, finally, at a tacky video parlor — provide much of the film’s bittersweet humor.
For a while, the tale ambles along formlessly, in “Rumblefish” fashion, but our melancholy misfits have a very real sword hanging over their heads: compulsory military service. How they deal with the draft gives a painful edge to the proceedings, and there are several twists near the finish, underlining a dark, if rather resigned, view of modern Korean culture, one built on violence, materialism and a destructively narrow concept of masculinity (all of which makes the Samsung connection a fairly surprising one).
Young helmer Yim Soon-Rye earned a master’s degree in film studies in Paris, and she reveals a fondness for the ennui-ridden style of the French neorealists. The social and political references, however, are purely local, and these may be lost on outsiders, even in sympathetic fest settings.
Pic also turns a bit repetitive toward the end, and scenes have such a similar rhythm and trajectory — with main characters being misunderstood or humiliated in some way — that the effect is numbing at times. Still, the individual scenes are well acted, and Australian lenser Peter Gray always finds a fresh angle on mundane settings. An all-guitar score is another plus, lending some simple distinction to the slightly obscure “Friends.”