blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Attack the Gas Station! (1999, Kim Sang-jin)

I’ve lost the desire to visit South Korea.

I’m not sure how to describe Attack the Gas Station! I suppose it’s a crime comedy, except the audience is supposed to laugh at the victims. The film lionizes its criminals–who spend the near two hour running time assaulting children, attempting the occasional rape and generally humiliating everyone they can.

But it’s okay, the filmmakers say, because the squares deserve it. The children–teenagers, I guess–all have part-time jobs, which makes them lame. The woman deserves to be raped because she’s a materialistic bitch. Everyone else is really lame too. But not our heroes. They’ve been mistreated–whether by loan sharks, teachers, coaches or parents–so it’s okay they’re criminals.

Oddly, they spend lots of time beating up other criminals–those are real “bad guys” though, who apparently don’t have social reasons for their disfunction.

Sitting and suffering through Attack the Gas Station, it occurred to me I’ve never seen a film more pro-violence. Any of those popular American films accused of glorifying crime and violence? They have nothing on this one.

Kim’s direction is, at times, sublime. When it goes over the top, it fails. But it’s very well-directed for about the first half. Really good performances from Lee Sung-jae and Park Yeong-gyu. The only bad performance is Kang Seong-jin.

It seems unaware of its general violent misanthropy and more specific misogyny, but I’m not sure if that ignorance is a good thing.

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