Dangerously Excited: Busan Film Review

Polished yet uneven music drama is dangerously short on excitement.

Sophomore Korean director Koo Ja-hong tells a story of kids trying to live their pop star dreams.

The transcendent power of music once again gets its moment in the sun at BIFF. 2010 gave us the uninspired Acoustic and this year we get the “anti-music” film Dangerously Excited, ostensibly an antidote to the blind affection and uplift normally associated with music movies if sophomore director Koo Ja-hong is to be believed. The film could play well domestically and in Japan, where audiences take kindly to stories of kids trying to live their pop star dreams and pop culture crossover is common. In other territories, the subject matter, while sometimes appealing, and the cultural specificities may dampen the already soggy themes.

Dangerously Excitedhinges on Han Dae-hee (Yoon Je-moon), a stuffy municipal bureaucrat who learns to embrace life when a budding rock band moves into his basement in the trendy Hongdae district in Seoul for rehearsals. The band is pretty bad, and they’re supposed to be: Min-ki (Sung Jun) is the dreadful lyricist, and its keyboard player and drummer, Young-jin and Mi-sun (Kim Byul andKim Hee-jung), aren’t much better.

As expected, they band faces a crisis when two members desert just before a big competition. Whatever will they do? As per films like this, they convince Dae-hee to take up the bass and join the outfit.

They don’t appear to win anything after the big show, so what the point of all their efforts was remains a mystery. But by the end the kids have taught Dae-hee, who before meeting them had no time for music and saw no purpose for it, the value of musical expression and art in general. Conversely they come to respect his experience and dedicate their final performance to him. 

This would probably make a better short film. The “bad” songs are simply grating after the fourth iteration. There’s an undercurrent of music appreciation in the film that belies the surface narrative, and Koo is clearly trying painfully hard to be ironic.

He makes a point of having Dae-hee name drop every musical great that ever walked the surface of the earth to the degree that the film often feels like Classic Rock 101. Dangerously Excited is polished and well-produced with competent if not wholly compelling leads, and cameos from Oh Kwang-rok (Oldboy), Go Chang-seok (TV drama Dream) and Park Hae-il (Moss) will get the attention of regional viewers. There’s little else going on here to make the film as cutting edge as it wants to be. A band blissfully oblivious to its own ineptitude and finding joy in song doesn’t make for innovative storytelling.

Venue: Busan International Film Festival, Korean Cinema Today: Vision

Production company: Mapofilm

Cast: Yoon Je-moon, Kim Byul, Sung Jun, Kim Hee-jung

Director/writer: Koo Ja-hong

Producer: Jung Hye-young

Director of photography: Oh Jae-ho

Music: Jang Young-gyu

Editor: Kim Woo-il

No rating, 101 minutes