'Dogs in the House' ('Cheongchunbilla Dalinsageon'): Film Review | Filmart 2019
A murder plot gone awry curdles from comedy into tragedy in Shin Hae-gang’s quasi-home invasion thriller, starring Kim Young-ho and a surprising Lee Seung-hyun.
A good old-fashioned “Kill my wife and we can split a fortune” plot goes awry (of course) when all involved start turning on each other in Shin Hae-gang’s amusing, nasty, and occasionally juvenile Dogs in the House, a comedy-thriller that starts out as light-hearted, jaunty goofball entertainment and quickly turns into a home-invasion thriller of mistrust and bloody paranoia. Led by a surprisingly layered performance by Kim Young-ho in his first big-screen role in almost a decade, the pic is likely to find a spot on Asian-themed and genre festivals and it could gain traction in other Asia-Pacific markets, but the compact, efficient nature of the film really makes it ideal for streaming.
Suro (Kim) runs a failing bathhouse frequented by a loan shark, Mr. Ku (Kim Jeong-pal), who out of the blue asks him how much money would make him truly happy. The answer, it seems, is about $2.5 million, and so Ku hatches a plot with Suro wherein Suro will break into Ku's house one night, threaten to rob him, kill his wife and take his money. They plot precisely how to do it, but come the night of the big event, Suro’s partners, Jonggi (Kang Han-saeng) and Dong-sik (Yoon Bong-gil), have convinced him it’s a ploy, and that Ku will kill them all.
Figuring out where Dogs in the House is going is a no-brainer for anyone who’s seen 1) a movie, 2) a kill-my-wife movie and 3) a Korean thriller, which doesn’t mean it’s not an engaging, vicious little piece of work. Broken into chapters with telling subtitles like “Visitors,” “Chaos” and “Prey” also gives it away, but once the more slapsticky elements give way to drama, rooted in simmering resentments — Ku is a terrible husband and worse father — and his children, Minsu (Baek In-ho) and the abused Mina (Lee Seung-hyun) also get sucked into the action, the film settles into a sort of chamber piece of contemporary insecurities and misplaced loyalties. Lest we think the bumbling thieves are put-upon losers who just get in over their heads, each eventually reveals his sinister side and makes it clear why they’re petty criminals, with Dong-sik the pervy still waters that run deep and Jonggi hiding a deep streak of latent violence.
Strangely, even when the pic is navigating less savory waters, Shin manages to jolt the action with flashes of dark comedy and unexpected action; the “helpless” Mina turns out to be a total badass. He also reins in the wild tonal fluctuations and keeps the narrative on track when it threatens to get out of hand and tip into nonsense. The final plot reveal is a bit silly, but for 80 of its 90 minutes, Dogs in the House works at keeping you guessing as to who’s going to make it out of this apartment alive.
Park Jeong-sik’s sharp images are unfussy, and Hong Su-dong and Kim Yeong-hyeon’s editing keep the pace brisk and the nihilistic momentum forward-moving at all times.
Production company: Megaphone Entertainment
Cast: Kim Young-ho, Kim Jeong-pil, Kim Dong-hee, Yoon Bong-gil, Kim Tae-jeong, Lee Seung-hyun
Director-screenwriter: Shin Hae-gang
Producer: Kim Cheol-won
Director of photography: Park Jeong-sik
Production designer: Yoo Jeong-min
Editor: Hong Su-dong, Kim Yeong-hyeon
Music: Ku Ja-wan
World sales: Mirovision