|Jin Seon-kyu as cold-blooded gangster Wi Seong-rak in "The Outlaws." Provided to Hankook Ilbo|
By Ko Dong-hwan
Jin Seon-kyu's place in the Korean film industry now is as famous as the wrinkle between his eyebrows when he portrayed a villainous ax-wielding Korean-Chinese gangster in the 2017 hit movie "The Outlaws."
Extending his reputation from the crime action movie that garnered him Best Supporting Actor in Korea's prestigious "Blue Dragon Film Awards" that year and featured the viral sobbing speech of appreciation, Jin has again made a critically acclaimed performance in "Extreme Job."
The comedy flick has sold over 12 million tickets in Korea in just 18 days, as of Sunday, and recorded over 80 billion won ($71 million) in revenue, with just 6.5 billion won invested. It has fewer than 650,000 seats to fill to become the country's biggest domestic box office comedy hit, behind "Miracle in Cell No.7" (2013).
|Jin Seon-kyu at a production press conference for 'Extreme Job' at Gangnam CGV in Seoul on Dec. 17. Korea Times file|
Mounting public attention on Jin in his latest screen role largely derives from "The Outlaws," which sold 6.9 million tickets ― a moderate success for an R-rated film in Korea.
Among moviegoers are fans eager to see how the gruesome killer has been rendered into a nondescript detective from Mapo Police Station in Seoul whose knack for fried chicken-cooking happens to lead his narcotics team to open and run a restaurant in Suwon to disguise their efforts to track down a drug ring.
Jin, although in a supporting role, overshadows in popularity the film's lead, Ryu Seung-ryong, a seasoned, award-winning actor who plays the drug squad's leader.
In a recent interview with online media outlet Max Movie, Jin, 41, a father of two, said the Suwon eatery film set was so real in appearance and facilities that it could actually open as a business. The "galbi chicken" introduced in the film tasted so good actors were sad to see the set dismantled after shooting was complete, he said.
Jin said he learned how to take bones out of chicken at a culinary school before shooting and said he is familiar with cooking because he lived alone in Seoul after college. He also mentioned his passion for being spry and previously enjoying acrobatics as a hobby.
|'Extreme Job' stars Jin Seon-kyu, right, as Mapo Police Station narcotics detective Ma and Ryu Seung-ryong, center, as the bureau's chief Go. Provided to Hankook Ilbo|
Having been recognized for his acting skills in the country's No.1 theater district Daehangno Street since 2000, Jin has appeared in more than seven musicals, 29 theater productions, 13 TV shows and 25 films. His career also includes the Netflix production "Kingdom," a rare zombie genre set in Korea's Joseon Dynasty. The second season has been confirmed following the first's popularity. Four other films featuring Jin are either in the making or ready for theater release this year.
It is "catharsis" that has driven Jin throughout his acting career, according to Max Movie, as the innately kind person (which his acting friends refer to as being "age-defying innocence") could joyously experience diverse fictional characters only in front of the cameras. He said it "sort of let out stress."
The graduate of the country's prestigious arts school, the Korea National University of Arts, said he no longer goes Dutch when dining with friends as he had been used to before hitting stardom. He now even cares to "secretly pay for food for his friends at restaurants," a Korean custom often followed by seniors or comparatively less cash-strapped peers.