Conduct Zero Review
Why study when you're the boss of your school? Well that's the attitude that young Joong-pil (Ryu Seung-bum) adopts as he shamelessly goes around taking money from fellow, younger students. As if that weren't bad enough he's tried many a money making scam, drinks more than he should, swears like there was no tomorrow and generally walks around being a bad guy. With his enormous reputation and the responsibility that comes with it - that is to keep face and show that he's no loser - Joong-pil finds it increasingly hard to keep up with his studies, more to the point he doesn't care to, but when a young female student named Min-hee (Im Eun-kyung) catches his eye he realises he needs to shape up. If he's to capture the heart of this pretty and respectful girl he must learn to act like a gentleman; study hard and try not to pester anyone - a task that seems far beyond his capabilities as a human being.
If you were to compare Korean, Japanese and Hong Kong comedy then you could easily say that out of those three Korean is the most accessible for Western audiences. The reason behind this is that most Korean comedy films are made up of fast gags, often related visually, and while keeping some Korean tradition tend to not be exclusively for Korean audiences. Hong Kong and Japan however tend to rely more heavily on their own culture, making references that are difficult to translate and as such not a great deal make it overseas. There are exceptions of course and it is easier to enjoy comedy from any country as long as you are in tune with what is going on.
Here we have Conduct Zero - a film that falls into the category of being universally simple: The story is simple, likewise so is the acting but the comedy separates it from the average romantic film. Unfortunately it doesn't separate it from the multitude of Korean comedies already making the rounds as the romantic comedy genre is one of South Korea's biggest outlets, mainly starring young, talented actors who are/were singers or have come from TV drama backgrounds. It is a trend that doesn’t appear to have slowed down and perhaps if you have never seen a Korean comedy then this effort would feel like a fresh change of pace. If however you have seen the likes of My Sassy Girl or My Tutor Friend and many many more, then believe me, you won't find much here that hasn't been done better already, though my given examples can hardly be considered prime ones.
Note: Small spoiler toward the end
Those familiar with several films from this genre will already be accustomed to the Korean way of entertaining audiences - the same, predictable way that damages most by the time the credits role. I refer to the way that most like to play around by mixing up other genres and introducing an overdose of either melodrama or pure seriousness. This is certainly popular in Korea, especially when violence is concerned to both male and female in equal measures, and that very same thing is what leaves Conduct Zero with an uneven tone. With any comedy film that deals with potential gangsters or bully figures who set out to prove themselves to the world that they're nice and then justify themselves by kicking the seven bells out of someone there is often a question mark that hangs in the balance. Joong-pil is a stupid guy and it’s his stupidity that makes him likeable in some way, it isn't because he cons people and has no respect for anyone, not even his best friend. In much the same way that director Yun Je-gyun carried out My Boss, My Hero by placing too much violence on characters and then expecting us to like them afterward so does the director of this movie, Cho Keun-sik. By the end of the film Joong-pil is now a better person, or so the pre credit sequence says and he's moved on and improved his life, apparently his transition doesn't need exploring more deeply - it just happens.
You have to wonder why the romantic plots should work. Here the pairing of Joong-pil and Min-hee barely comes across as being natural, though it seems quite obvious that Min-hee isn't as sweet as she looks. I found her character to be contradictory. At times she is quiet and reserved, other times she stands up for herself and is outspoken. There's nothing wrong with that but there's a streak in her that does make you wonder what direction she is going in, whether it be a temporary fascination with a local bad boy or something more. In addition to this we have the other romantic subplot that involves Joong-pil and his ex-girlfriend, Na-young (Gong Hyo-jin) who is also a bully and is in charge of a girl gang. She wants Joong-pil back but he's moved on, so he tells her. These two are better for each other, they're from the same backgrounds and whenever they're together it makes more sense. It could just be me but I never found the relationship with Min-hee as being realistic. Oh it's a whole barrel of nuts I tell you, the salted kind.
Reservations aside the film carries itself well thanks to the performances. While certain logical inadequacies (including chewing gum with a razor in it and then spitting it at someone) and lack of further character development, not only between Joong-pil and his love interests but also his new friend, teacher and mother that are largely glossed over there does seem to be a consistency in the acting department and the roles are suitably filled.
Being a comedy I should say whether or not it is actually funny. Well it is amusing in places. The humour is ridiculous which is the intention - a film featuring many situational and often fabricated moments that include heavy usage of CGI and wire tricks, Bruce Lee nods (yet again...) and surprisingly very little in terms of "gross out" material. I guess I should be thankful that it doesn't need to take this route. The trouble is that after the first couple of minutes in introducing Joong-pil the humour doesn't get much better. Like Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer we see bodies fly and superhuman activity, which is all very nice and does happen again at the half way point. Here and there are little moments that provide a chuckle but the film never gears up to provide bigger laughs.
ADV's venture into releasing South Korean films on DVD has started off on a ropey path.
Conduct Zero is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image is strong, with good colour reproduction and a nice amount of detail. Distant shots look slightly soft as per usual but the overall look of the transfer is acceptable.
ADV treat Conduct Zero in much the same way they do the majority of their anime releases, which in this case is not a good thing. The default track is a 5.1 English dub for which I don't wish to go into details because I didn't like it very much. The voices don’t match the characters and it is all very artificial, lacking heart.
The Korean track is the way to go but unfortunately it is only available in 2.0. Compared to the Korean release which features 2.0, 5.1 surround and DTS this is most upsetting. I'd have hoped ADV could have done better.
There are optional English subtitles. These are yellow and bold, making for an easy read.
Conduct Zero Music Video
This runs for almost 4 minutes and features the main song, with clips from the movie playing.
Conduct Zero Movie Highlights
21-minutes of highlight footage from the film.
Firstly a scene plays and then we see the behind the scenes footage, some of which is interesting, mainly the special effects shots and what went into them.
Optional English subtitles are included on this extra.
Original Korean Trailer
This runs for almost 2-minutes and is lively and colourful, showing mostly the best parts. This is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1.
This is a 3 and a half minute selection of photos that play to the main theme. These are fun pictures that consist of promotional material such as poster art and character profiles to behind the scene shots.
Iron Mask’s Student Files
This option takes you to the student file section where you can see teacher's notes. They’re accompanied by tracks recorded by the U.S voice artists. This gets increasingly annoying the more you listen to it, as each profile has several moments of dialogue. There are seven character profiles in total.
2 and a half minutes of outtakes that are actually taken from the U.S. voice artists'. On occasion they’re amusing, sometimes awful but I'd have sooner seen the original Korean outtakes and not these specially made ones.
Trailers for: Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, the excellent looking Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, Gun Crazy: A Woman from Nowhere, Gun Crazy: Beyond the Law and studio Gonzo's Last Exile
Conduct Zero is meant to be a film about a certain time in everyone's life, a point where we grew up and started to learn more about the important things in life. Its intentions are admirable, the execution isn't bad but in the end Conduct Zero is forgettable stuff and as far as its release here is concerned ADV have disappointed this reviewer. I hope in future we'll see 5.1 (Dolby and DTS) audio tracks for their Korean releases. In terms of extras they are very average and often pointless.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 11:02:43