Edmond Rostand’s classic text gets a contempo kimchi tweak in Kim Hyeon-seok’s romantic comedy “Cyrano Agency.” Repping an enjoyable break from the helmer’s fetish for baseball-themed pics (“YMCA Baseball,” “Scout”), the story here is based around a theatrical troupe’s clever exploitation of wealthy Korean lonely hearts. Holding the peninsula’s top spot for a few weeks last October, the pic garnered a robust $17.5 million. But despite the polished presentation of an inventive premise and some festival exposure, “Cyrano” will hook up only in Asian territories accustomed to Korean romantic-comedy tropes.
Opening two reels present a successful scenario for the titular business venture established by down-at-the-heel thesps to aid lovelorn men hook the women of their dreams. Led by one-time acting teacher Byung-hun (Eom Tae-woong, “Chaw”), savvy and surly femme Min-young (Park Sin-hye), hammy Chul-bin (Park Cheol-min), and jock-nerd hybrid Jae-pil (Jeon Ah-min), the gang use modern technology and their theatrical know-how to guide clandestinely — a la “Cyrano de Bergerac” — a gawky client over courtship’s rocky terrain to his romantic goal.
The agency’s next prospect looks even more promising. Goofy young funds manager Sang-yong (Daniel Choi) has access to all the cash the team needs to fend off bill collectors and expedite their return to legit pursuits. Unfortunately, Sang-yong’s object of desire is Byung-hun’s luscious ex-g.f. Hee-joong (Lee Min-jeong) for whom their ringleader still carries the torch. Complications are multiplied by Byung-hun’s attempts to resolve his romantic conflict without fessing up his emotional dilemma to his colleagues.
Auds will takes pleasure in the client’s pratfalls, and near-exposures of the romantic mission suffered by the Cyranos, while the pic stealthily moves toward a moving melodramatic climax. Helmer-scripter Kim Hyeon-seok’s demonstrated ability (“When Romance Meets Destiny” and presumably the lighter elements of Park Chan-wook’s “JSA”) to keep tender humor and emotional heartstring tugs in balance is flawless.
While Kim’s intelligent design is key, the film’s success also owes much to Eom’s dexterous perf as he moves from the man in command to the stubborn fool prepared to throw away everything rather than let his ex-lover go. On the distaff side, Park Sin-hye stands out as Byung-hun’s sharp colleague who first connects the dots behind her boss’s conflicted approach to their latest gig. Supporting perfs are likewise aces with Choi and Lee Min-jeong, as the client and prize respectively, given the most room to shine.
Quality lensing sometimes plays with an indie look, but the sleek appearance of mainstream Korean cinema is hard to disguise; brief scenes in Paris suggest the production is not as cash-strapped as it sometimes pretends.
Composer Kim Tae-seong is adept at supplying the right musical stings to fit the pic’s varying moods. All other tech credits are pro.