As you can probably tell, the Screenjabber team are BIG fans of animated comedy Futurama. In one of its most memorable episodes, present-day pizza delivery boy Fry is committed to a mental asylum for deranged robots. After persistent examinations Fry convinces himself that he actually IS a robot, and many One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest shenanigans ensue. It’s hard not to imagine these reference points when watching Chan-Wook Park’s latest film (he of the varying Vengeance trilogy) especially as the visually inventive film feels like animation. Granted a deranged and utterly loopy variant ... but does it work?
Young Goon (how apt is that name?) is working in a depressing assembly line building transistor radios. Following an inexplicable breakdown she believes she has 'transformed' into a cyborg. From this distopian setting, we follow Goon (the excellent Su-jeong Lim) into an asylum where she begins to fantasise further about her robotic abilities. She soon meets Il-Soon (Rain) who tries to convince her, in his own way, that she is in fact human. What follows is a love story, framed by bizarre vignettes delving into sci-fi and dark comedy.
It’s a tough one to call. Whimsy and humour can work wonders regardless of the genre (think the romantic Amelie or the even better war movie A Very Long Engagement) but can also fail (Tim Burton’s low points of Sleepy Hollow or Charlie and the Chocolate factory). I’m a Cyborg does tread that very fine line, and indeed never settles long enough for one to make a decisive shout. Visually this film works wonders, taking sterile environments and infusing them with an energy that make them irresistible. If anything the opening in the factory is the best of the bunch, setting up the film and introducing a wonderful central character. Lim is excellent as the girl who only wants to talk to a friendly vending machine. The rest of the cast fall into loony-bin stereotypes and tend to play up to those roles rather give anything new. Korean pop sensation Rain (recently not seen in Speed Racer) does fine, but again offers little originality.
The film itself however is crammed with invention, probably too much as the obsessive style-over-content pattern tires quickly. Too long to keep up the early momentum, and veering too violently from one tone to the next, I’m a Cyborg is still an interesting if ultimately unsatisfying experience. Now, bite my fleshy human butt...
EXTRAS *** A UK exclusive interview with director Chan-wook Park, a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, trailers and a music video.