THE SHORT VERDICT:
A heartwarming coming-of-age movie disguised – and therefore heavily misidentified – as a campy comedy.
If you were to approach this movie expecting a dose of pure funny all the way through, I’m guessing you would walk away rather disappointed.
It’s true that the (often coarse) comedy reigns supreme for a good stretch of the movie, taking up maybe 50% of total screentime (this is not an exacting number, it’s just my feel-o-meter talking).
Eventually, though, the funny gives way to deeper, bigger, meatier things. There’s a good bit of melodramatic angst involved, but it’s played well, and it all serves a larger, more thoughtful message than what one might expect, given the initial camp:
What does it mean to grow up? And what does it mean to stand up for what you believe in?
Excellent performances from both the youth and adult actors make this an engaging, ultimately satisfying watch, with a bit of thought-provoking on the side.
THE LONG VERDICT [SPOILERS]:
You guys know that I don’t usually write movie reviews, preferring to focus my reviewing attention on dramas.
While that hasn’t changed, I had more thoughts than usual after catching this movie on a flight, and decided that a quick review would do it more justice than my usual in-a-nutshell updates on the blog’s Facebook page.
Be warned that this review leans more towards a response post discussing the mapping of the story and its characters, and therefore is pretty spoilery.
Pacing and Handling of the Story
There’s something that I feel we need to deal with upfront and get out of the way. This movie has a lot of coarse humor.
In fact, the whole first half of the movie, particularly the earlier scenes, is full of jokes, many of the bawdy variety. If you don’t like this kind of humor, you’d probably find it uncomfortable to sit through.
I’m not big on bawdy humor myself, but I can understand the writing decision around this.
1. It’s quite typical of youth.
When you’re young and discovering the opposite sex, you tend to fixate on.. things, and also tend to be inordinately amused by those things.
By allowing the bawdy humor to have its day in the sun, the writers are giving us an idea of the teen psyche that is at work in almost all our main characters. This is how they think, this is how they tick, basically.
Honestly speaking, I actually preferred the later part of the movie to the earlier campy bits. It’s similar to how I felt about Fugitive: Plan B.
With Plan B, I didn’t care so much for the camp that was rampant in its first half either, but once we got to the heart of things and people in its second half, I liked it a lot better.
Same thing here. The campy was amusing, but I just felt that there needed to be more to this movie than just camp. And happily, there was more.
2. It gives us time to appreciate the facade that forms the surface world these characters live in.
For almost all our characters, there’s a whole other inner world at work beneath the surface, and we don’t see it until the earlier campy layers peel back.
To be sure, the writers could have opted to show us this inner reality right off the bat, but I actually rather liked their decision to contrast the campy, surface reality with the hidden inner reality that we eventually get to see.
By investing time in showing us the surface reality, we get to understand the dynamics of the various relationship pieces and how they interact and collide with one another.
We get to see Joong Gil (Lee Jong Suk) as a serial skirt-chaser, and over a few romantic pursuits, we also see how his heart is somehow not quite all there in it.
We also get to see Young Sook (Park Bo Young) being tough – with girls and boys alike – and how she’s repeatedly shunned by Joong Gil, and how that hurts her.
We also get to see the facade that So Hee (Lee Se Young) uses. We see her being all ladylike and dainty, and how the boys all fall over themselves for her, including Joong Gil.
Yes, it started to feel a little haphazard at times, and also a touch draggy, but on hindsight, I feel it was necessary.
We needed to see that whole facade-world and how it spun on a daily basis, in order to appreciate what it was doing to our characters at deeper levels. And then, as the layers peel off, the impact of each layer hits us, one by one.
That’s when we begin to really understand our characters and their inner workings.
I liked the carefully timed, selective use of flashbacks to fill in the gaps in our story; gaps which we and our characters had filled with misinformation prior.
With the deliberate reveals, our important story and character pieces get re-set, one at a time, until we finally have all the important, correct information out in the open. It’s only then that our characters are able to move forward in meaningful ways.
In that sense, it’s like an intricate puzzle that has to unfold to reveal all its pieces, before being reconstructed into a new and more beautiful form.
Lee Jong Suk as Kang Joong Gil
To be honest, it had felt rather strange to me, to see Lee Jong Suk portraying a serial skirt-chaser.
For the first half of the movie, I kept having a niggling feeling that there was something that didn’t ring true in Lee Jong Suk’s portrayal of Joong Gil. Something just felt off.
At first, I thought, “Did I give him too much credit for his acting ability?” I started to wonder seriously if Lee Jong Suk’s acting chops weren’t as good as I’d originally thought.
But no, he didn’t disappoint after all. The whole reason that Joong Gil’s Casanova ways felt hollow was because it really was hollow.
As we eventually learn, Joong Gil had so much more going on underneath the surface. Him being a Casanova was more of a coping mechanism than a true expression of his character and personality.
What’s interesting is that Joong Gil as a character doesn’t even seem to realize this himself. As much as understanding his character is a journey of discovery for us, it’s a journey of discovery – and growth – for Joong Gil too.
Once he is confronted with the truth, his true heart bursts forth, and Joong Gil as a character – and Lee Jong Suk as that character – becomes a pleasure to watch.
I particularly appreciated the moment he went crazy when he found out that Young Sook had taken the fall for him, and when he found out she’d left for Seoul.
Joong Gil’s devastation and desperation was completely immersive, and I found him sympathetic and completely believable in that moment.
On a side note, I actually found Joong Gil’s facade a really strange one.
I mean, Cowardly Casanova is just such a weird combination, right? Aren’t the girls at all disappointed by his wimpiness and cowardice in the face of bullies, male and female? I know I would be.
To then have his character continually charming the girls, while at the same time getting beaten up by bullies, was just really weird for me.
Park Bo Young as Young Sook
This was my first time actually seeing Park Bo Young in something, and I felt that she was a revelation as Young Sook.
Despite Young Sook being the tough gangsta girl, I love, love, love that Park Bo Young imbues her with a layer of vulnerability that just shines through.
Her gaze betrays layers of hurt even though she never speaks of them. And even though Young Sook’s first instinct is always to protect her pride, she’s bold and gutsy and never shies away from tough situations or difficult decisions.
Even though it wasn’t always clear to us as an audience, I love that Young Sook cared for Joong Gil through it all.
Even when Joong Gil was chasing every other girl around, I believe that Young Sook knew – or at least, wanted to believe – that he was made of better stuff.
She was the only one who encouraged him to apply himself to his studies, even though he was getting zeroes in all his tests. She was the one who told him that he was smart.
And, given that she tells him these things when she’s reached a pit in her own life, dropping out of school, says so much about her.
Tellingly, even though Young Sook is portrayed as a big gang leader and everything, we don’t actually see her stirring up trouble.
In fact, that whole fight that she had with So Hee was something that So Hee started. Young Sook had merely acted in self-defense.
One of the most memorable Young Sook scenes for me, is when she opts to get beaten to a pulp in order to secure Joong Gil’s safety. That she does it so matter-of-factly, and never breathes a word about it to anyone, just says so much about her.
Yes, she’s a tough gangsta girl of few words, but her actions speak so much louder than those few words. She’s made of steely, durable, loyal stuff, and I dig that.
The Happy Ever After
While some viewers might find it cliched that Joong Gil and Young Sook only get their happy ending after a time skip, I actually found it a more believable writing choice, than if Joong Gil had upped and gone to Seoul to find Young Sook right away.
Both Joong Gil and Young Sook needed to sort out their inner turmoil and figure out who they were as people, before they were ready to come together as a couple.
Before the time skip, Joong Gil is a big hot mess of a character, with a lot of baggage to sort through.
After the time skip, when we come back to him, he’s clearly a more settled, mature version of himself. There’s groundedness and resolve in his eyes. He has set his heart on what he wants to do, and it’s gratifying to see him go for it.
I love the ending where Joong Gil strides in to Young Sook’s workplace to sweep her off her feet.
Yes, it’s cheesy, but doesn’t Young Sook deserve an epically cheesy love declaration after all that she’s been through?
Seeing all the little snippets of their future together, getting married and having kids and bickering, was just icing on the cake.
I really enjoyed all the supporting characters, and found them all very good. Here, I give quick shout-outs to just several of them.
Lee Se Young plays delicate city girl and gangster-y troublemaker very convincingly.
Kim Young Kwang (once again) is completely believable as a violent dumb jock. I found Gwang Sik so reminiscent of his character in White Christmas, really, except this time he’s rocking the slicked-back Elvis-esque hair.
As an aside, I almost couldn’t recognize Jun Soo Jin (Yes, that’s her next to Park Bo Young in the still up top).
She looks so completely and utterly different from her Heirs and School 2013 personas that it was her voice rather than her face that clued me in to her presence in this show. I rather like badass gansta Jun Soo Jin, heh.
Among the adult cast, my favorites are the 2 teachers and their furtive romance.
I enjoyed how well-played their romance was, in echoing the themes that our youth are exploring, and I thought Ra Mi Ran was especially good.
She made Lady Teach’s secret frustrations and little spurts of joy play out on her face even in the more subtle beats. Like how she let Lady Teach’s secret enjoyment of the moment show through, when the 2 teachers were asked to sing a duet together during the MT. Cute.
Kwon Hae Hyo is great as Joong Gil’s dad. I found him understated and believable, regardless of whichever side of the coin Joong Gil happened to see him as.
I really liked that his portrayal was able to withstand Joong Gil’s changes in perspective of him. Whether he was a womanizer or a grieving husband drunkenly acting out, his performance withstood both perspectives. Kudos.
Part of the credit definitely goes to the writing. There aren’t any manipulative decoys here that don’t make sense on hindsight. Instead, when the perspective is adjusted, the very same actions and behavior of the characters take on new meaning. And I really dig that.
A Movie with a Message
Walking away from this movie, there are 3 main themes that continued to resonate with me.
1. Things aren’t what they appear to be on the surface.
There’s more beneath, almost always.
We see this play out in so many of our characters. Young Sook and why she loved Joong Gil. So Hee and her real past. Joong Gil and his hurts. Joong Gil’s dad and the truth about why his marriage broke down. The teachers and their secret relationship.
Eventually you find the truth, and the truth changes everything.
2. You need to find yourself and what you really want,
..instead of just reacting to what’s around you.
This is true of many of our characters, including minor ones like Joong Gil’s uncle. But we see it most in our lead couple. Young Sook needed to figure out what she really wanted in life, and Joong Gil needed to understand who and what he really cared about.
It’s only when you find out, that you can really begin to be true to yourself.
3. Be bold to stand for what you believe in.
It’s when you’ve figured out what you really want, that you can then boldly stand for what you believe in.
We see our lead couple find their happy ending when Joong Gil finally seeks out Young Sook and sweeps her off her feet. And we see that mirrored in our teacher couple, who finally stop sneaking around and get married.
I love that there’s so much satisfaction painted around this. Hello, feel-good warm fuzzies.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A movie that explores growing up angst with a layer of camp on top. Sweet and uplifting at its heart.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Here’s the campy trailer, which I happen to think is a little too misleading, since this actually isn’t a campy movie at its heart.
This lovely song from the OST only played during the end credits, but I think it manages to capture the mood of the movie better.
Beyond the comedic visuals in this MV, Park Bo Young’s sweet vocals and the wistful, longing lyrics hit closer to the movie’s heart.
Thank you for this detailed review!
I’ve watched Hot Young Bloods already but for some reason, I always go back to it just to watch more of Park Bo Young’s tough acting (which I truly love and got me hooked in all her movies).
Anyway, I just wanted to ask a few things:
1) Do you have a list of all the music that Hot Young Blood has?
If yes, I would greatly appreciate if you could share them so I could listen and enjoy them while working.
2) Do you have a favorite website you watch korean movies from (free and paid versions)?
I’ve watched Hot Young Bloods at this site (http://www2.0123movies.com/movies-hot-young-bloods-2014-0123movies.html?play=1) but I haven’t found the scene where Park Bo Young kicked a chair in the classroom.
Hi there, glad you enjoyed the review! I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the list of music on the show. I did a search, and it doesn’t look like the movie makers released that either. As for movies, I usually watch my movies in-flight, but in a pinch, this site has proven to carry a nice number of titles, often subbed. I hope that helps! 🙂
Here I am. 4 years late for your review but skimming the first part (to avoid spoilers) of your review is what made me seek out and watch this movie.
After watching it however, and coming back to read the full review, it’s not spoilery enough! lol Because I really didn’t get what happened to Joong’s mom? The last flashback toward the end of the movie showed she had an affair and left without even taking her clothes. But a previous flashback showed Joong coming home from school, and grandma saying “Your dad’s back after 8 years. Mom is gone.” I don’t get it. Dad was gone for 8 years and on the day that he returned, mom up and booked? Then they show dad drunk and being helped into the house by grandma and a woman – whom I assumed to be Young sook’s mom (not sure though. I only assumed it was her mom from Joong saying earlier that his dad had an affair with her mom).
If you get around to reading this, please let me know. It seems like maybe the subtitles were probably off for it to be so confusing. I understand that the early backflash may have been showing something from Joong’s young, purposely-mislead-by-the adults point of view, but the subtitles for that drunken backflash don’t match up to what it later said of misleading Joong to purposely think that dad was the one who had an affair.
Gratitude to you or anyone else who comes across this and can explain.
Hi there beez! First of all, I’m glad you did give this movie a go, because I remember it quite fondly. That said, however, I’m sorry to say that the details that you’re asking about, escapes my memory. As you said, it’s been 4 years since I watched this movie. 😛 On the one hand, it’s possible that the subs were not telling the full story. On the other hand, it’s also possible that a lot of coincidence was employed in creating the context for our characters. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help right now! If I do manage to recall the answer to your question, I’ll be sure to let you know! 🙂
I absolutely love this movie and the fights were very good! Also Jun Soo Jin looked super sexy and looked like a real bad girl I would love to see her in action movies.
I loved the fact that Joong Gil (lee jong suk) could never really stand up to Gwang Sik (Young-Kwang) even when he wanted to fight him because of So Hee (Se-young) he tried but was still a wimp about it and did nothing but when it came to Young Sook (park bo young) he was able to actually fight without fear. I think that part is very meaningful because it showed how much she really meant to him.
Ah yes, I do remember enjoying this movie very well! Glad you loved it, Ashley! And yes, I do recall how Joong Gil fought to protect Young Sook – that was very significant indeed. Thanks for helping me relive the memories! <3
It’s an awesome review!
I recently became a huge fan of Lee Jong Suk and decided to watch everything he appeared in!
And this movie just added my fondness for him to a great extent! I loved his acting.
Park Bo Young was superb as well.
I loved your review. You have specified every points so gracefully! And I learned some new viewpoints about the movie after reading your review. kamsahamnida!
Can you help me out with something though? I had been frantically searching for the song that was used at the beginning of the movie. The one that was played in the background when Joong Gil was riding a bicycle.
Also there were more songs like this throughout the movie, like when Joong Gil was about to kiss Young Sook but gets caught by Lee Se Young.
Can you please tell me the name of the song and the singer?
Thanks Azure, I’m glad you enjoyed the movie, AND this review! 🙂 I really enjoy Lee Jong Suk and Park Bo Young as well. They’re both such talented actors.
The song that plays at the beginning of the movie is by 산울림 and the title is 개구장이. You can listen to it here:
Who was the girl who had a cameo appearance in the factory? I can’t help but notice that the camera focused on her twice. 🙂
Hey there Jedd! I am not entirely sure, but I suspect that the girl at the factory was So Hee, played by Lee Se Young. 🙂
Responding 6 years after the fact but I just watched this film. It wasn’t a cameo. The whole ending is a parody/homage to the ending of “Officer and a Gentleman.” The girl the camera focused on twice was merely a placeholder for Debra Winger’s friend in the movie.
HI! Not all , i am happy that you’re a busy person . That’s a good thing ! Thanks for this review , I dindn’t hear about this drama, so good thing you posted this . It seems quite interesting. Also the cast is a good mix , I believe . In the moment that i finish HYB , i will read your precious review .
Btw are in your plans doing a review for I miss you ? ‘ Cause I freakin’ loved it ! Seriously is one of my favorites .I never knew that i could love and hate so much at the same .
Aw! That’s possibly the first time anyone’s ever used the word “precious” to describe a review of mine. That is so sweet of you, CaptainSleepy! ❤
Btw, this one’s not a drama but a movie. A bit of a pity, since I think there’s enough meat here to have it fleshed out into a mini-series. It’s still a nice watch, and I hope you enjoy it!
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to finish I Miss You.. I quit after 13 episodes coz I just couldn’t take the pain and the tears anymore. There was just so much painnnn. 😛 Also, even though Yoo Seung Ho was super charming as Harry Borrison in the beginning of the show (augh, that swoony gaze!), his character went to crazy places and I couldn’t bear to watch. >.<
Ohh , how lame of me ! Hahaha So it’s a movie , that makes it even better , since the time is less , so we cry for more (i guess ..)But we don’t get to really know the characters .
Yeah about IMY ,it was chaotic . Harry wasn’t the only one going crazy , i was about to fly to S.K and have a talk with the writer . But in the end I was so empty and so sad because of how the things turned out to be . I know its hard but please finish it , ’cause i must cry words with you .
Park Bo Young was amazing in A Werewolf Boy. It’s a definite must-see Korean film. I hate bawdy humor, but it can’t be as bad as the bawdy humor of 80’s American films? Those were just gross. lol. I love how tall he is next to her. So adorable. One day I’ll catch this. Thanks for the review and going out of your drama comfort zone. You are great with movie reviews too. Time to start a new ‘section’ on this blog! LOL
Aw. You are so encouraging and supportive, Lady G, thank you! 😀 ❤ I don’t know if I’ll be posting many more movie reviews, but if I do, perhaps I will take you up on your suggestion to create a new section or category on the blog!
I really don’t like bawdy humor too, and therefore couldn’t tell you too confidently how this movie’s bawdy humor compares to 80’s American films.. 😛 I think this is milder, if that helps! XD
Thanks for the recommendation on A Werewolf Boy! I’ve had that at the back of my mind for a “someday” watch when the right mood strikes.. You just nudged that way higher on my watch list. Plus, it’s Song Joong Ki, who’s awesome. How could I possibly pass it up, right? ^^
AWB has a big place in my heart because it’s what led me to K-dramas, after going to the movies to see it, I had to find more work by Song Joong Ki, thinking I’d find movies, and then there was this little phenomenon called a Korean drama…I know, I missed the boat by decades! haha. And plus, it’s simply an awesome, awesome movie and if you have it, it’s on Netflix streaming!
And I can understand, too many dramas to watch and review. It’s best to stick to one concept sometimes. Otherwise your brain fogs up.
Ahhh!! The plot thickens!! 😀 I remember you saying that your first kdrama was Nice Guy!! Now I know why you were even looking at Nice Guy – Song Joong Ki!! Who really is amazing in Nice Guy, which I’m now in the final stretch of watching! Have you watched all his other stuff? I loved him to bits in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and watched it twice! 😀 And then he was so amazingly intense in his extended cameo in Tree With Deep Roots.. The boy (man? boy-man?) is very talented indeed. ^^
With your strong recommendation, A Werewolf Boy is now high on my movie watch list! After I’m done with Nice Guy, I’ll check it out when I’m in a movie mood. I like to keep actors’ projects a little separate on my screen if possible – it adds to the immersion most of the time. The only time I broke that self-imposed guideline is when I watched Joo Won in Gaksital and Ojakgyo Brothers at the same time. To his credit, I never felt like his 2 characters were the same person. Mad props. And.. that was quite a tangent! XD
Tis true.. there are way too many dramas to watch and review.. I’m even toying with the idea of not reviewing some dramas to make more time for watching drama. And this is why I keep movies for zone-out days, coz I know I’m not planning to review them anyway, so it really doesn’t matter if my brain’s not all switched on. Hot Young Bloods took me by surprise though. I had so many thoughts after the movie that a review really seemed the only way to get them all out! XD I think that’s possibly similar to what happened with you when you watched The Suspect! Many thoughts together = review in the making!
Oh yeah, I immediately looked for other Song Joong Ki, after Nice Guy, I’m pretty sure SS was my 2nd or 3rd drama mainly because he was in it. I can’t remember. Then I knew he was a very versatile actor. His role was awesome. I like Penny Pinchers very much when I saw it come to Netflix. It was cute.
And that’s exactly how I felt after watching the suspect, and knowing all the great Gong Yoo fans I thought i should really try and review this. I’m happy you allowed me to share those jumbled subway thoughts with everyone. 😀
I find Joo Won an amazing actor. I saw Bridal Mask, to be completely honest I forced myself to get through it because my sister loved it. I couldn’t get into the story. I hated all the violence and just felt it was one big torture. However the acting was fantastic across the board. We are huge Park Ki Woong fans too. I’ve been meaning to watch O-Brothers. I need to because 2 of my favorites are in it-Joo Won and Ryu Soo Young. I’ve been so busy I can’t commit to all the dramas I like right now. I still feel that Joo Won was robbed of the Drama Fever best actor award for Good Doctor. Seriously. That should have simply been called ‘Heirs’ night.
Oops, forgot to say ‘Tree with deep roots’ was fabulous and I didn’t want the King to grow up! Song Joong Ki owned it for those brief 4 episodes.
I should say, my sister loved Bridal Mask mostly for Park Ki Woong, the violence/torture scenes turned her off too. I’ve always been a fan of heroes. And I put my mind his perspective, but in the end I don’t like murderous heroes. :/ I did read your amazing review though. In the end my sister and I both fell in love will Lara’s silent Japanese bodyguard. LOL! And any drama that gives Han Chae Ah a good meaty role like that is a-okay. The poor woman is still playing second fiddle despite all her talent. It’s exasperating.
Shall watch tonight! Thanks for the review!
Aw! That makes me happy, that this review might have encouraged more people to watch the movie – it’s definitely worth checking out 🙂 Did you like it in the end? (Yes, I’m incorrigibly curious that way, heh) 😉
I thought that whereas the first half of the movie was a bit draggy, the second half picked up pace, but then perhaps went too fast for the ending– it’s like boom he shows up, boom he proposes, boom she accepts, boom they have a kid. But!! Happy ending, which I like. ^-^
That’s true – the movie could’ve totally been paced better. I would’ve loved to have spent more time with our characters after all the big realizations hit. That would’ve been more enjoyable than all the camp we spend the time on instead. Still, for the heartwarming ending and the uplifting message, I forgive the movie its flaws. ^^ Glad you still managed to enjoy it!
YES! I actually just watched this too and I LOVED it! It was funny, it was sad, it was hopeful, then it was happy. I too loved the part where Young Sook took the fall for Joong Gil the best. Just watching his slow realization of what happened (when he was on the train) was so real. I particularly loved the fact that Joong Gil still cared enough about Young Sook that when she was expelled, he went to go patch her up even though he still thought that she attacked So Hee.
I also loved the directing and the fact that most of the scenes and emotions were portrayed through actions and very little plot-ish dialogue. It made it that much more genuine and poignant. Loved it!
p.s. First comment…
What great timing, Julianne, that we watched this at around the same time! 😀 I’d actually heard some negative things about the movie prior, so I was really pleased to find that I really liked it! Enough to fill a post with my thoughts, even! ^^
I totally loved that understated mutual care and concern that we eventually got to see between Joong Gil and Young Sook. In the ways they protected each other, even when they weren’t really friendly on the surface, we got to see how much they really cared. You totally hit the nail on the head – how they felt was shown to us more in actions than in dialogue, and that worked really, really well! I have a sneaking feeling that on a rewatch, I’d probably find more to like about this movie! 😀