Hi, Dharma!

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

A group of low rent thugs has just pulled a hit, so they’re trying to lay low and let things calm back down again. After all, the tension between gangs is reaching a boiling point, so one hit might be enough to cause a serious conflict. Not to mention how the police are cracking down, in order to avoid such a conflict. So in other words, these thugs have nowhere to turn to and so they simply have to vanish for a while, until the climate cools. But they don’t have much time to formulate a plan, as the police are hot on their trail and looking to bring the killers to justice. With no options in front of them or behind them, one of them makes a bold suggestion. But as odd and impossible as it sounds, given the alternatives, the men agree and the plan begins to unfold. The men intend to find a monastery and pretend to be monks, since no one, even the police, would think to look within the monks for street criminals. The men will remain among the monks for a week, then return back to their normal lives. The plan works at first, but soon their lack of monk-like manners creates some problems with the real monks. The two groups aren’t that different, each has a leader and several odd members, but tension is present between them. Can they learn to coexist, or will one side wind up declaring war on the other?

As with most foreign language films, if you’re not an expert in the culture featured, you’ll probably miss out on some subtle touches. In the case of Hi, Dharma!!, you’ll need to be somewhat familiar with Buddhism to pick up on the humor, but in order to catch a good portion of the material, you almost have to be an expert. But even if you’re not, you should be able to find some enjoyment here, as this turns out to be a passable picture. Not the kind of sheer hilarity that splits your sides, but some solid laughs and a brisk experience. A nice blend of dialogue based humor and more slapstick, visual antics, Hi, Dharma!! is by no means an original, but it takes care to add in some unique touches, so as to avoid being overly recycled. Kind of like here in American, where have a thousand American Pie clones and while most aren’t good, some offer at least moderate laughs. That’s the case here, as the folks I watched with were laughing throughout, but mostly smaller chuckles, as opposed to roaring laughter. Yes, this is a by the numbers movie that just skates by on its charms, but in some cases, that’s enough. Of the mass of gangster comedies available in Korea, this one falls somewhere in the middle, which isn’t that bad. Tai Seng’s disc is unremarkable, but the movie itself warrants a rental recommendation.

Video: How does it look?

Hi, Dharma!! is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is kind of a let down, as I believe some of the import versions are anamorphic, instead of normal letterbox. The image looks more than decent even so, but could have been more refined, with the added anamorphic treatment. The print looks clean, with no serious grain or debris, but the image is still on the soft side. I found colors to be bright and pleasant, while contrast is smooth and well balanced. Although this treatment is more than watchable, I wish it would have been anamorphic, without question.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original Korean soundtrack is preserved here, via a more than solid Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option. The audio is well presented, but this is a standard comedy in terms of audio presence, so don’t expect much. The music adds some spice to the experience, but aside from that, you won’t find much surround presence. A few scenes do spark the speakers, though not often enough to make it an immersive soundtrack. The dialogue is clean and always easy to understand however, so in the end, this is a solid presentation. This disc also includes Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks, as well as optional English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes two of the film’s theatrical trailers.

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