A quirky combination of docu and homemovie, "Action Boys" follows a group of Korean stuntmen wannabes from training auditions to eventual careers, some of them even in movies.
A quirky combination of docu and homemovie, “Action Boys” follows a group of Korean stuntmen wannabes from training auditions to eventual careers, some of them even in movies. As chaotic as the lifestyle it depicts, this rough-and-tumble pic offers rare behind-the-scenes glimpses of famous action setpieces sandwiched in between lame tryout tapes and fruitless treks to China, the “boys” simply clowning around or providing examples of just how expendable the anonymous flying bodies in Korean pics can be. Jeonju fest audience-award winner could prove a DVD treat for Asian action fans.
“Action Boys” announces its oddball personal approach from the get-go, when a sassy female narrator presents baby pictures of a fellow who, as viewers may glean over the next 20 minutes, turns out to be not a random stuntman but the docu’s director, Jung Byung-gil. After a tongue-in-cheek recap of his serial failures as soccer player, wrestler and artist, pic chronicles Jung’s acceptance into Seoul Action School.
Jung and seven other students (out of 36 in the class of 2004 who survive until graduation) next participate in Jung’s zero-budget directorial debut, “Standing on the Edge of Sword” — a film that might have succeeded, according to general consensus, had Jung not cast himself in the lead.
As students drop out willy-nilly and even graduates jump ship for safer or more lucrative pastures, Jung tracks the feats of those stalwarts still hazarding life and limb. The film deconstructs a brilliantly choreographed tour de force featuring most of the docu’s cast in “City of Violence,” and intimately observes an acrophobic daredevil psyching himself up to plummet from a bridge in “The Host.” Docu also trails those who have long since parted company with the business, the school audition tapes affording inexhaustible humor as a stunt coordinator who made the initial selections wonders where he went wrong.
But beyond the jokey camaraderie, real physical pain is revealed as the guys casually show off their scars or mention lying in full-body casts for months. Lacking basic protective gear, poorly paid and serving as punching bags for stars, these dedicated professionals risk death for bit parts in movies that even loved ones have difficulty discerning. Belated recognition does come for helmer Jung and his peers, however, in seriocomic form.
Suitably seat-of-the-pants tech credits include poorly translated subtitles that render the femme narrator’s voiceover commentary surreally oblique.