Movie Review: Man on High Heels (2014)
In all honesty, i wanted to watch Man on High Heels for some time now, but i didn’t do so until recently. It’s not that the movie type was something that would attract me in the first place, after all i am not that much into detective/action/crime movies lately. It was the scenario’s drama factor on the main figure’s background story that intrigued me. I was really curious about how the storyline would unfold and how Jang Jin (scriptwriter/director) would depict detective Ji Wook’s dual nature. Truth be told, such scenarios always have the potential to turn into parodies of themselves and proceeding with it was a brave move in the first place. Earning my trust and finally succeeding in everything it preserves was something that eventually happened.
So, what have we got here? Ji Wook is an elegant figure with scars carved all over his body. He’s a police department detective and he’s pretty good at what he does. In fact, he’s a police department on his own. Beating up a bunch of people is more or less his daily routine when he’s on a mission and he beats you up when he’s gentle. Automatically, this means that you just got lucky and from now on you should become a better person if you don’t want to cross paths with him once again. However, you happen to be a gang leader, Heo Bool, and you’re dining with the finest costumed punks of your gang. Once Ji Wook appears the unluckiest day of your life has just began. He doesn’t need to be armed to turn into a killing machine, in fact guns are useless when it comes to Ji Wook and you finally end up at the hospital under arrest in critical condition. Your son, Heo Geon (Oh Jung Se – Plus Nine Boys), becomes the new leader of the gang and plots to get revenge. And what a villain Heo Geon is! He almost admires Ji Wook! He’s nearly ecstatic when it comes to Ji Wook, but at the same time through various events he uses any possible method on a quest to hurt him as much as he can and then try to kill him. His seemingly friendly personality in combination with his villainous outbursts is a pleasing contrast!
Ji Wook’s internal world though differs from his masculine looks and overpowered body. Deep inside the core of his soul lives a woman, she’s always been there. He’s been on hormone-therapy for some time now and he finally decides to resign as a detective and proceed with transgender surgery in order to live as a woman from a moment and on. Steadily and one after the other the people around him are being murdered. One person of strategic emotional importance to Ji Wook is being captured and is being held as a hostage to lure Ji Wook into the wolves’ lair. Heo Geon’s revenge is at its final stage and Ji Wook has two options, either he’ll proceed with the surgery and live as a woman or he’ll struggle to save the person dearest to him. The rest is up to you to find out fellow readers!
Cha Seung Won inhales masculinity and exhales femininity. He definitely shines in the darkness through his role and lives up to any expectation. One thing is for sure, Cha Seung Won is always classy through the whole duration of the movie no matter which side he brings to the surface. Even though he’s fragile deep inside he can turn into a real killing machine using as a weapon pretty much anything within his range, a fork, an ashtray, a chicken bone and anything you can imagine. As long as he can wield it, it’s a weapon. The fighting choreography through the whole duration of the movie is excellent. Seung Won performs a really good job, he neither just hits nor simply maneuvers around his enemies. He’s nearly dancing as he’s beating black and blue all alone a bunch of people, the duality of his character is omnipresent even then. Fighting in the rain while holding an umbrella without being affected by the falling rain requires some skill. And that’s how a stylish fighter who respects himself delivers punishment! And you have to admit that he’s got his own techniques in interrogation and arresting aspects. Once he’s on a mission he’s a one-man army, under any other circumstances he could be a one-man band.
When he’s not a weapon of mass destruction and his colleagues and/or friends are not around his reactions are feminine and airy. The more you get to know him the more you realize the struggle between the woman within and the man on the outside, the desire to live as a woman and the fight in the process to be immune to others’ stares and opinions. Throughout all these years there were two options on the crossroads he had reached, either killing or embracing himself. And by killing himself i mean both metaphorically and practically. Practically, it would be the utmost level and it’s not that he didn’t really try. The beset scars all over his body were an attempt to silence the woman within, the car incident when he closed his eyes and put his life in danger willingly was a cry for utter silence. Metaphorically, he tried to kill herself so as to be himself, that’s why he became a one of a kind fighter, to strengthen his masculine aura.
Ji Wook feels so alone deep inside and that’s the moment when transgender Bada (Lee Yong Nyeo) comes into play to ease his burden and find some comfort through her words and experiences. She introduces him to the ornate world of shady glitter through her cabaret where he meets one of her dancers, Do Do, who feels enamored by Ji Wook’s elegant presence and unconditionally helps him to understand and give prominence to the woman within, without fear, but with passion. Lee El (Its OK, that’s Love – Liar Game) even though she doesn’t talk much as Do Do, her stare is gently penetrating and interprets her role in an unerring way. We also witness his traumatic, but also full of beautiful memories, past. School bullying due to his difference, but also romance and heartache with violent colors for his young fragile soul. His relation to barmaid Jang Mi is well-conceived and well-interpreted, it’s in the special way he cares about her and the way he craves for the person living through her stare. It’s a beautiful yet devastating interaction, Esom depicts Jang Mi really well. Last but not least, Jin Woo (Go Kyung Pyo – Tomorrow’s Cantabile) is Ji Wook’s partner at the same police department, a caring person towards Ji Wook and someone you could refer to as his friend since he’s Ji Wook’s closest male figure.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that the movie has to offer some humorous moments, they appear to ease the emotional tension. It’s not that it would feel monotonous without them, it’s just that it would feel a bit more emotionally overburdened without them. Of course i’m referring to moments like the scene at the elevator, the police department chief’s reactions when Ji Wook doesn’t get injured enough so as to vindicate the harm he had caused to the ones he was after, the undies the gangsters found while searching Ji Wook’s apartment and considered them to belong to his girlfriend, etc.
Man on High Heels is a wonderful movie with expressive visuals and beautiful photography, full of action alongside its crime/detective aspects, but with a powerful yet fragile humane side. Within its 2 hours of play it intends to satisfy the audience with its multifaceted scenario. All the pieces come together naturally and forge a puzzle full of dark imagery in misty glitter, just like Ji Wook’s tragic fate and brittle world.