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'Men of Plastic' director's reunion with Ma Dong-seok leads to good-natured comedy

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Director Lim Jin-sun / Courtesy of Showbox
Director Lim Jin-sun / Courtesy of Showbox

By Kwak Yeon-soo

The new Ma Dong-seok (aka Don Lee)-Jung Kyung-ho buddy film, "Men of Plastic," is director Lim Jin-sun's first return to the comedy genre in a decade since "Super Star" (2012). The director revealed that worked on the plastic surgery-themed comedy drama for nearly eight years with Ma, who serves as the executive producer on the film.

"There was a script that was already in development, and I was prepping for another movie. After I finished shooting crime thriller 'The Villagers' with Ma, I was called on this project. I rewrote the entire script for two years," he said during an interview with The Korea Times, Wednesday.

The film revolves around Dae-guk (Ma), a quick-talking con man who was born and raised in Apgujeong-dong, an affluent neighborhood in the Gangnam District of southern Seoul, where plastic surgery and skin care clinics abound.

He joins hands with Ji-woo (Jung), the most talented plastic surgeon in the area who unfortunately loses his medical license. Dae-guk persuades Ji-woo to be his business partner, and together, they take the lead in the K-beauty industry.

The 49-year-old filmmaker explained that the movie characters were inspired by real people. "Dae-guk's character was inspired by someone Ma knows personally. It was fascinating to talk to him. He is a smooth talker and he seems like he is genuinely busy, but nobody knows what he does exactly," Lim said.

The director further revealed his friendship with Ma, which spans over a decade. "It was in the mid-2000s when we first met. Ma then had minor roles in films like 'Heaven's Soldiers' (2005) after working as a celebrity personal trainer, and I was preparing to make my feature directorial debut after working as an assistant director. We often hung out in Apgujeong-dong, drinking beer and supporting each other," he said.

A scene from the film, 'Men of Plastic' / Courtesy of Showbox
A scene from the film, 'Men of Plastic' / Courtesy of Showbox

As a close acquaintance, Lim witnessed how Ma rose to greater fame ― from taking on smaller roles to starring in Marvel superhero movie, "Eternals" (2021).

"Ma has many extraordinary talents and he keeps evolving as an actor despite his already accomplished career," he said. "For 'Men of Plastic,' he suggested many ideas and helped me find the right tone for the film."

Lim said he luckily got everybody he wanted in the cast, adding that the delivery from the actors, specifically Ma and Jung, is what keeps the comedy afloat.

"To make a good-natured comedy film, you need a good cast that is collaborative. Ma was my first choice. And Jung, Oh Na-ra, Oh Yeon-seo and Choi Byung-mo ― I loved working with them," he said.

The director talked about the challenges of directing comedy. "Comedy is tough because laughter is an involuntary reaction. When people are trying to be funny, it rarely works," he said.

"With this film, it was about finding the perfect balance between making use of hilarious situations and relying on comedic actors."

"Men of Plastic" is currently playing in local theaters.

Kwak Yeon-soo

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