The classic ‘body switching’ tale of the poor and the rich trading places is the premise of “Luck-Key,” a real charmer of a film (it’s a Korean remake of Kenji Uchida’s 2012 Japanese comedy “Key of Life”). The film was a runaway hit in its home country of South Korea, and I can see why. Not only is it incredibly well directed by Gye-byeok Lee, this movie truly has it all, from comedy and action to adventure and romance.

We first meet struggling actor Jae-sung (Joon Lee) in his filthy apartment. His landlady is banging on the door demanding back rent, interrupting his attempt to hang himself. He’s a disappointment to his family and feels he has little to live for. Demanding that he clean himself up, Jae-sung heads to a public sauna. Paths cross and lives change when very wealthy (and expertly skilled)  hired assassin Hyung-wook (Hae-jin Yoo) falls and hits his head in a bathhouse. Seizing an opportunity, Jae-sung quickly swaps locker keys with the incapacitated man and raids his locker and life.

The early scenes are a lot of fun because everybody loves to watch the loser become the winner. He drives around in a gorgeous Maserati, wears the hitman’s fancy designer suits, hands out cash like candy, and eventually moves into Hyung-wook’s lavish apartment. Soon the man wakes up in the hospital with amnesia. Since the medical staff only have the contents of the switched lockers, they assume that he’s the poor guy and not the rich guy. It’s a really funny, amusing premise and it’s done extremely well. There’s a ton of good-natured, universal humor that had me laughing out loud throughout.

As he slowly begins to regain his memory, Hyung-wook observes that he’s “really good with knives.” This leads to a job at a restaurant (ha!) where he begins to develop a romance with the lovely and thoughtful Lina (Yun-hie Jo), the paramedic who aided him during his accident. Meanwhile, Jae-sung discovers a nefarious hidden room in the man’s apartment — and it’s filled with guns, knives, cell phones, fake passports, loads of cash and a surveillance camera that monitors the neighbor girl upstairs (Ji-yeon Lim). Of course you know where this is going and yes, some of the plot lines in this movie are outrageous, but it’s also very entertaining as it finds the right balance of action, humor and romance.

While the plot gets overly complicated with so many twists and turns, it’s fun to watch the two men grapple with their temporary new identities. Jae-sung works hard to protect the girl while Hyung-wook struggles with his other job: a role as an extra in a popular television melodrama. Things aren’t as they seem (turns out the neighbor girl is actually being protected from a mob of nefarious businessmen, and Hyung-wook is so popular that he makes it big as an action star), and the film ends with a bloody, action-packed climax when the men eventually meet. It’s satisfying to see them work together to bring new identities to everyone by faking an elaborate death act. You could say it’s the ultimate life swap.

Matt was unavailable for review.


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