Film Review: My Annoying BrotherCall it cornball for the way this ostensible black comedy morphs into a family tearjerker, but I defy you not to be moved by its literal bromance.
When con artist Go Du-sik (Cho Jung-seok), who’s been convicted ten times, learns that his estranged younger brother, Judo champion Doo-yeong (Doh Kyung-soo) has gone blind from injuries during a competition, he pleads for parole to care for his sightless sibling. Thus begins a Korean Odd Couple, but far more viciously combative. Both brothers have more than their share of accumulated emotional baggage, much of it stemming from the fact that they have two different mothers, whose identities remained something of a mystery for years, causing Du-sik to run away from home at an early age and start his nefarious life.
Sibling rivalry can be a great subject for a movie, and My Annoying Brother is a more-than-worthy entry in this genre. The first half could be construed as the darkest black comedy, with the noxious Du-sik turning his sightless brother into a veritable punching bag for abuse, both verbal and physical (“Ass hair” is his favored nickname for him). And Doo-yeong often gives as good as he gets, with his bratty bro sometimes sprawled on the floor writhing in pain from his brother’s martial-arts adeptness. The very nastiness of the situation between this irrepressible lowlife and high-minded virgin jock, with frequent instances of gross-out humor and Three Stooges-type violence-for-a-laugh, is frequently uproarious.
And then, halfway through, the film does a U-turn, with the discovery of a physical challenge to Du-sik that goes far beyond blindness, and things dangerously threaten to veer into the maudlin. But it’s a tribute to the vision of Yoo Yeong-ah’s basically warm-hearted screenplay and Kwon Soo-kyung’s savvy, well-timed direction, as well as the strong performances of the leads—and also the always spunky Park Shin-hye as Doo-yeong’s case worker—that you keep watching. And, damn, if you don’t find yourself concealing a sniffle or three, as this Korean Rain Man becomes something of a tearjerker along the order of The Champ, or any sports-themed epic aimed at making audience’s eyes well up. It’s nigh-irresistible and, for once, all the sentiment seems fully earned; small wonder this film was a top grosser in its native Korea.