Review of Korean Film: 'Attack The Gas Station'
About Attack The Gas Station:
Attack The Gas Station is a South Korean crime comedy that was released in 1999. It stars Sung-Jae Lee, Oh-Seong Yu, Seong-Jin Kang, and Ji-Tae Yoo as the quartet of main characters that decide to go ahead and rob the same gas station again; but, they end up getting a bit more than what they bargained for. While they are thugs, they are considered to be your tragic antiheroes who are fed with the different aspects of society. As there is a set story, Attack The Gas Station slowly transitions from being plot-driven to character-driven. At the same time, the transition makes Attack The Gas Station a very funny movie to watch.
The comedy of Attack The Gas Station shows the contrast between Korean comedies and American comedies with the former being subtle and the latter being more “in your face.”
Through the movie's story, Attack The Gas Station also addresses the sociopolitical and socioeconomic situation of South Korea at the time. Because of such commentary, I could compare Attack The Gas Station to Kevin Smith's first movie Clerks. The first reason I can compare is because they both take place at one location; in fact, the locations are similar. In Attack The Gas Station, the setting is a gas station which seemingly acts as a convenience store as well. With a movie taking place in one small location, Attack The Gas Station knows how to use up its screen time when introducing and reintroducing new characters that stop at the gas station.
I came across this movie online a couple years ago wanting to find some decent contemporary Asian movies; thus, I came across Attack The Gas Station. The title and poster are more than enough to get a person's attention as they got my attention. The subtle story gets viewers hooked while snowballing into something that's insane with so much humor.
Ultimately Attack The Gas Station teaches the important life moral: the world, let alone South Korea is one social gray area.
There is no absolute good or bad. Attack The Gas Station subtly points out these life lessons while keeping the story very funny and entertaining.
Attack The Gas Station uses the theme of robbing a gas station, an often cliché plot of any movie or TV show, and turns it into something original. This is perhaps one of the most original and creative stories that I had come across. It is a good example that less is usually more when coming up with a very unique story. Attack The Gas Station is able to tell a great story while being contained in one specific area which is the gas station.
It starts out with the notion of how culprits usually return to the scene of the crime. The quartet of antiheroes (Mark No, Dae-Po aka Bulldozer, Dda-ra Ddan aka Rockstar, and Paint) rob and destroy a gas station. However, they decide to rob the place again in hopes of getting more money. However, the gas station owner anticipated that the quartet of “thugs” would return; in response, the owner managed to hide the cash. But, that doesn't even deter the four thugs. Instead, the four of them take the manager and the employees hostage with Bulldozer acting as the “jailer.” While Bulldozer acts as the jailer to the “hostages,” the other three trash the gas station to find the money.
The three have to act fast as there are customers stopping by wanting gas. They propose an idea: pose as gas station employees and make money. Due to people paying with credit cards, the employees demand that the customers pay with cash. When the customers pay, they pocket the money themselves. In order for this to work, they have to make sure the “hostages” don't get get the attention of the customers or other people that stop by.
As the night progresses, the guys get hungry and bored. Thus, their antics gain the attention of other people. One of the hostages is revealed is to be the victim of bullying. When his bullies come to the gas station to harass him, the main characters take them hostage. When the leader of the gang comes, he gets taken hostage as well.
On top of that, the quartet of thugs learn that the cops don't really do their job and the ones they come across aren't really noble as they demand free gasoline. Due to these interactions with such characters, the antiheroes of the film display some noble and heroic qualities. In another scene in which a group of gang member are forced by Rockstar to perform an Acapella number, they get the attention of a music producer who hands them his business card saying they have potential and at least they're not on the streets. Bulldozer, who's standing guard on the second floor, passes the time by forcing male hostages to fight each other to become his number two. It is revealed that the hostages do have pent up aggression towards someone such as the manager.
At the end, it boils down into one big brawl between a large group of food deliverymen (due to one of them getting antagonized by the main characters), the upper echelon of the gang, and the police. The build up to that major brawl at the end becomes quite entertaining. While the story does have some violence, it's not over the top violence. The level of violence was subtle and toned down to compliment the feel of the movie.
Through the movie, the reasons are revealed as to why the four main characters are the way that they are.
Attack The Gas Station shares similarity with Clerks, but you cannot call the movie a ripoff or a carbon copy of it. This movie stands strong with its own original story.
Attack The Gas Station - Acapella Scene
The four main characters are tragic antiheroes who have a bunch of potential; but, they are frustrated for a number of reasons. Resorting to such tactics, the characters use this as an outlet to lash out at the world. While they are antiheroes, it doesn't necessarily make them bad people. Even though they are antiheroes, they are not necessarily bad people. It turns out that they are quite noble compared to most of the other characters that stop by the gas station. Attack The Gas Station has an interesting cast of main characters and support characters. At first, it's easy to dislike the main characters; as the story progresses, it is revealed that they are true underdogs who are often misunderstood by Korean society.
As the story builds up, you can't help but to both empathize and sympathize with them; that's especially when they show their good qualities. You have the four main characters:
Mark No – Mark is the leader of the group. Due to being an orphan, it is revealed that he didn't have the same equal opportunities as other people with their own families. Wanting to become a professional baseball player, Mark didn't have the opportunities to show his skills. But, he's still passionate about the sport. He can be considered the jock of the group.
Bulldozer – Bulldozer is perhaps the most memorable and comedic character of the group. He turned out to be my favorite character of the group. So far, he's a man of few words and lets his long wooden stick do the talking. One could consider Bulldozer as being part of the “chaotic good” alignment. While he has a good heart, his intentions don't conform with the law. He comes off as being hardline when it comes to punishing people in his own way.
Rockstar – Rockstar is the hothead of the group. That's probably due to his persona. He's a musician who got kicked out of his bad for making bad business decisions and doing business with the wrong people. But, he's still passionate about music. He can be considered the musician of the group.
Paint – Paint is the crazy guy of the group. One could call him an “abstract” artist. He's very passionate about painting in his own way. He's a tragic antihero due to his father not approving of him wanting to be an artist.
As the movie progresses, a mix of characters come in such as deliverymen, cops, and so forth. One of the most interesting characters is the gang leader Yonggari who might've taken the music producer's offer along with his cronies to form a boy-band.
If you need a reason to enjoy some Asian cinema let alone what South Korea has to offer, you will be satisfied with Attack The Gas Station. This is quite the original and entertaining movie. It's something that you may watch a couple of times as time goes by. While this movie came out in 1999, it seemed to be somewhat ahead of its time. However, the makers creatively used this story to weave an entertaining tale of chaos that ensured when a group of young “thugs” decide to rob the gas station a second time while intricate weaving social issues relevant to that county at the time. If you enjoy Clerks, you may appreciate Attack The Gas Station as the plot format is similar.
Also you may want to check out Attack The Gas Station 2, released in 2010, which takes place at the same gas station ten years later.