Brutal cop, Yoon Ji Wook (Cha Seung Won) finally decides to quit his job and make the transition to becoming a woman. This sets off a chain of events that leads to tragedy and non-stop stabbing.
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★
Only 만: ★★
Only 만: So, I guess it’s my turn to apologize for suggesting we watch this movie.
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: Actually, at the beginning of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised. Based on the premise, I thought Man on High Heels would be a disaster, and an embarrassment for everyone involved. It turned out to be surprisingly sympathetic towards transgender people.
Only: I thought so, too. It wasn’t until the movie devolved into pointless tragedy and non-stop stabbing that it lost me. But, let’s rewind, and talk about what we liked.
Junggugeo Kaenada: Cha Seung Won’s depiction of the transgender cop, Ji Wook was dignified and believable. After impressive displays of violence, Cha Seung Won managed not to look like a caricature of a drag queen when she dressed up as a woman.
Only: I appreciated that neither the director nor Cha Seung Won played those scenes for laughs, but instead, gave Ji Wook a quiet and shy dignity, which was completely at odds with the violent way she lived as a man. Thanks to commenter Samantha for letting us know to use the female pronoun even when Ji Wook presents as a man (see below).
I thought the film also had a great visual style.
Junggugeo Kaenada: Yes, the cinematography helped contribute to the sober approach to the story. Though, the musical score was another matter. I sense that we are now easing into the myriad of problems we had with this movie, many of which I did not foresee.
Only: To start with, I found the tone very muddled, like the movie wasn’t sure what it wanted to be and they hadn’t quite worked out the kinks in the story. As an example, when the younger gangster, Heo Gon (Oh Jung Se) goes on his final vengeful rampage, I couldn’t figure out how we got there, since he had no clear reason for doing it. It was a total disconnect, not only in the story, but with the earlier, more light-hearted tone. And, the ending was a complete fizzle.
Junggugeo Kaenada: Well, we started repeatedly checking how much running time was left, in the last 40 minutes of the movie. This was because Man on High Heels started devolving into a predictable tragedy to the point where we could identify who would die next. And, since the practice of non-stop stabbing had been established, we became squeamish about what we would be forced to watch before the end came.
Only: Yes. I’m going to mention a major spoiler here, so stop reading if that bothers you.
I think the only thing we didn’t manage to predict was that Ji Wook would survive. Personally, I thought this muddied the tone even more. After driving into tragedy, it was weird to have the movie make a U-turn, and end up nowhere, especially since it wasn’t clear why we ended up at tragedy in the first place.
Junggugeo Kaenada: I found the ending very baffling. It did not make sense that after her brush with death, Ji Wook would decide to stay in the closet. And, if she was going to backpedal, the story would have been more tragic if she ended up marrying his first love’s sister. Then, the mask would have been complete.
Only: Agreed. It would have made more sense if she’d picked one side or the other. Instead, she says goodbye to her high heels as she escapes the final fight, but again, we’re never given a clear reason. If she’d survived, there was nothing to stop her from continuing what she started.
In fact, the film’s problem seemed to be that it couldn’t decide whether it was about Ji Wook’s battle with the lame villain, Heo Gon, or with her own personal demons, and that’s what left us with this messy ending.
Junggugeo Kaenada: I am sad to say that this is not a movie that I would recommend. It was very brave of everyone involved to release a serious depiction of a transgender cop in the middle of the summer blockbuster season. On a positive, but superficial note, Cha Seung Won was smoking hot as a man, and surprisingly agreeable as a woman.
Only: Agreed on all counts. Male or female, fantastic abs are fantastic abs.