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Marine Boy hooked on diving for drugs

Jan 28,2009
Trying to pigeonhole the upcoming crime caper “Marine Boy,” which opens this Thursday, is no easy task.

Characters come and go in this hyperrealistic depiction of how drug smugglers go about their business, an industry that the director neither condemns nor condones.

“Many viewers will be puzzled over this unusual but realistic synopsis,” said Yoon Jong-seok, the film’s director, at a press conference earlier on this month.

It’s Yoon’s first feature work following his two short films, “An Elegy of Revenge” (2002) and “Stakeout: 29th” (2001).

Marine Boy, which stars Cho Jae-hyun, rising star Kim Kang-woo and Park Si-yeon and was filmed on Cebu Island in the Philippines, involves a complex plot revolving around a drug crime.

Cheon-soo (Kim), a former national swimmer, dreams of taking off for Palau, an island nation east of the Philippines and a popular destination for scuba diving.

To cover the cost of his trip, Cheon-soo teaches swimming during the day and gambles at night.

But his plans are crushed after he loses a tense game of poker. He finds himself sinking into debt and soon the loan sharks start circling.

It’s at this point that the swimmer is offered a dangerous proposal by Mr. Kang (Cho), the godfather of a local drug syndicate.

Kang asks Cheon-soo to help him ferry drugs to a band of Japanese gangsters, and in return, he will pay off Cheon-soo’s debts.

With no other option, Cheon-soo begins his long, dark dive into the treacherous waters of drug smuggling, with Park Si-yeon providing the love interest.

He swallows packs of drugs, which measure out to be around 10 meters (33 feet) in length, and crosses the sea by boat and at turns swimming to fulfill his mission.

Of course, although the film is fiction, this journey is based on real-life escapades that see dangerous drugs moved around the world, and as we read in the paper, the most dangerous method for transporting drugs is in the body.

The packages that the smugglers swallow can burst, leaking their toxic load into the bloodstream.

“I have a very special bond with the sea because it’s where I grew up,” Yoon said. “So shooting in the ocean was not a strange experience for me.”

However, Yoon’s relationship with the ocean didn’t speed up the movie-making process. In fact, it took more than four years for the film to be completed, from the initial draft of the script in 2004 to shooting the final scenes.

“I began thinking about the script after I saw a very moving film noir. This movie set in motion the characters that would eventually materialize into Marine Boy,” he added.

During the casting call, the director said he paid particular attention to the way the actors auditioning for roles looked, and was careful to avoid stereotypes. For instance, he didn’t want Mr. Kang to look like a gangland boss. He wanted him to look like an ordinary businessman.

“That’s why we chose Cho Jae-hyun for this role,” Yoon said.

“Men in their late 30s probably feel some sympathy for Mr. Kang,” said Cho, who was also present at the press conference.

“Mr. Kang is a man who hopes to live an energetic and youthful life,” Cho said.

Reluctant to tie his movie down, Kim said there are several different ways of viewing the story but what’s for sure is that you’ll be hooked for the two-hour duration.


By Lee Eun-joo Staff Reporter [angie@joongang.co.kr]


Left to right: The director Yoon Jong-seok, actors Cho Jae-hyun, Kim Kang-woo and Park Si-yeon from the upcoming film, “Marine Boy.” Provided by Filmmarketing Vidan



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