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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Top My Wife' a Comic Farce From Korea

February 10, 1995|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the dynamic and hilarious "How to Top My Wife," Korean filmmaker Woo-Suk Kang once again shows his mastery at putting a fresh, ingenious spin on Hollywood genres. Last year his "Two Cops" breathed new life into the buddy-buddy comedy, and now he's enlivened the darkly comic domestic farce. The foundation of his success is no secret: an exceptionally solid script, this time by Sang-Jin Kim and See-Uk Oh.

Handsome Joong-Hoon Park, who played the younger by-the-book rookie in "Two Cops," gets an even better opportunity here to shine like a young Jack Lemmon or Tony Curtis as the head of a Seoul film production company whose wife of five years (Jin-Sil Choi) has turned into a shrew at home as well as the office, where she's head of publicity but tactlessly involving herself in everything, even re-cutting the ending of a film (for the better, it turns out).

It's no wonder, then, that Park's Bong-Soo is having an affair with the star (Joung-Hwa Eum) of a film currently shooting. So exasperated is he that, having learned his wife has a weak heart, he exposes her to such no-no's as strenuous sex and a roller-coaster ride--but to no avail, of course. Eventually, he concludes that only a professional assassin will do, but the hitman proves to be as dopey as he is dashing; this allows the virile Chong-Won Choi a wonderful comic turn--think of Toshiro Mifune playing a klutz.

As one inspired sequence follows another, you have to wonder how Kang and his writers are going to tie everything together for a satisfying finish, but their imaginations never falter. "How to Top My Wife" avoids both feminist cliches and going too far with its material, yet resists sentimentality. If Kang keeps going at this pace he could end up being mentioned in the same breath with Billy Wilder.

* MPAA rating: Unrated. Times guidelines: It contains some strong language and some scenes of lovemaking but no explicit sex.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'How to Top My Wife' Joong-Hoon Park: Bong-Soo Park Jin-Sil Choi: So-Young Chang Chong-Won Choi: Killer Joung-Hwa Eum: Heri A Morning Calm Cinema release of a Woo-Suk Kang production. Producer-director Kang. Executive producer Mi-Hee Kim. Screenplay by Sang-Jin Kim, See-Uk Oh. Cinematographer Kwand-Suk Chong. Editor Hyun Kim. Music Kyung-Shik Choi. In Korean, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

* In limited release at Vista Theatre, 4473 Sunset Drive, Hollywood, (213) 660-6639 , and the Morning Calm Theater, 14948 Crenshaw Blvd., Gardena, (310) 217-0404.

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