An ambitious attempt to meld Korean-style melodrama with Hong Kong-style action in a European setting and across a large emotional canvas, “Daisy” reps a tough sell in the West and may even fall short of expectations within some East Asian markets. Netherlands-set triangle, between three Koreans (a painter, cop and hitman), relies much on the thesps’ individual charisma and the exotic appeal (for Asian auds) of the picturesque locations — neither of which will ring the same bells with occidentals. A much shorter version could grab niche business in the West, where a U.S. remake is already planned.
After repeated delays, and earlier talk of a wide, pan-Asian release, pic finally preems March 9 in South Korea, alone. Marquee teaming of iconic actress Jeon Ji-hyeon (“My Sassy Girl,” “Il Mare”), and hunks Lee Seong-jae (the killer in “Public Enemy”) and Jeong Woo-seong (popular meller “A Moment to Remember”), will generate some business initially, though film’s biggest market could be in Japan, where both Jeon and Jeong are huge.
Playing in the winsome mode of “Il Mare,” rather than the more pugnacious “My Sassy Girl,” Jeon is Hye-yeong, a 25-year-old painter who has a job in a relative’s antiques shop and is still waiting for the love of her life. On weekends, she works as a street artist in a picturesque square (shot in Haarlem), where she meets and falls for a Korean guy, Jeong Woo (Lee), who appears to leave behind a pot of daisies.
Lau, who’s essayed almost every genre in his Hong Kong career, proves adept at replicating the look and tone of South Korean mellers during these leisurely opening reels. The widescreen, summery lensing, wistful voiceover by Hye-yeong and sense of an epic love story about to unfold will appeal to fans of East Asian contempo melodrama.
Film takes a typically Korean turn as the voiceover switches to Jeong Woo, who’s an Interpol officer monitoring drug trafficking between Europe and Asia. As earlier scenes are replayed from his p.o.v., pic’s look and tone suddenly turn darker as a gun battle explodes in the square, Hye-yeong is wounded in the throat and Jeong passes out while chasing a sniper.
As Hye-yeong recovers, her vocal chords shattered, the v.o. switches again — to the sniper, Park Eui (Jeong), a contract killer who lives on a barge, where he grows daisies. (Lensing also shifts, to steely blue colors.)
This first act, which lasts almost an hour, sets the scene for a triangular meller into which the crime elements gradually intrude; “Daisy” isn’t a pic that’s in hurry to go anywhere. Final, half-hour, set a year later, is more plot heavy, with an ironic coda that recalls “Comrades, Almost a Love Story.”
Script, by “My Sassy Girl” helmer Kwak Jae-yong, is thoroughly Korean in its slow-burning atmosphere and emotions. But when the action breaks out, the viewer is plunged into a parallel movie that’s much more Hong Kong, and never bisects with the love story. Stylistically, Lau takes a lot of chances — the slow pacing, several sequences in which silence is used dramatically — but the three leads come over more as puppets than fully realized characters, with too much dependence on voiceover rather than dialogue.
Tech package is top drawer at all levels, with special care shown in the graded photography, with onetime d.p. Lau again co-lensing with Ng Man-ching. Action sequences, staged by H.K.’s Dion Lam, have a brutal efficiency.