Save The Green Planet headline image

Byeong-gu has killed a lot of people, but he'd never consider himself to be a serial killer. You see, he believes he's discovered (from watching 1950's sci-fi "B" movies and reading conspiracy theory books) that aliens live among us, masquerading as human beings, and that these extra-terrestrial life forms are the main reason behind society’s many problems as well as the misfortune in his personal life. Byeong-gu (who is on medication) also believes that the alien Prince of Andromeda is coming to destroy the Earth at the next lunar eclipse and, being the only one aware of the problem that humanity is facing, has taken it upon himself to stop the aliens and save mankind by speaking with the alien prince before the lunar eclipse occurs. Byeong-gu has previously kidnapped several individuals whom he believed were aliens but, as none would confess to their alien origin or tell him the whereabouts of the prince, he (obviously) had to kill them. Another problem for Byeong-gu is the fact that since the aliens look just like human beings finding them is quite a task. The latest alien suspect, as we join the film, is Kang Man-Shik, the president and CEO of a big chemical company. With the help of his beloved, and slightly slow, circus performer/tight-rope walking girlfriend, Su-ni, he plans to kidnap the businessman, torture him until he confesses that he is an alien and force him to arrange a meeting with the prince.


Save The Green Planet is utterly bonkers. It's incredibly funny, viciously brutal, genuinely moving and completely nuts. Byeong-gu never considers the idea that his "discoveries" about an alien plot to destroy the world might simply be the workings of the mind of a man who should take up residence in a large padded room - he "knows" it's up to him, and him alone, to save this little green planet. Byeong-gu hasn't had an easy life (& he's sure that those pesky aliens are to blame for that too) - a bee-keeper by trade, he was beaten in school, showed signs of early violence (such as stabbing a fellow school mate with a kitchen knife) and was victim to the sadistic whims of his cruel teachers. His father was a coal miner who lost one of his arms due to dangerous work practices and was subsequently killed by his wife when he attempted to attack her and Byeong-gu. His mother was poisoned by Kang Man-Shik's company in a pharmaceuticals test (which Byeong-gu believes was alien experimentation), and is still in a coma in hospital, and his former girlfriend was beaten to death by corporate gangsters during a worker's strike. All the constant violence that has engulfed Byeong-gu's life has had an effect on his mental well-being and the fact that so much of that violence has been linked to large corporations (namely Kang Man-Shik's) makes it blatantly clear to him that Kang is an alien and a high-powered one at that. By kidnapping and torturing him Byeong-gu will not only facilitate a meeting with the alien Prince of Andromeda to save mankind but will also be able to force Kang to provide an antidote to cure his mother and all the while he'll be making the culpable pay for the pain he has had to endure.

Ok, Ok, I know what you're thinking… Byeong-gu's life story doesn't seem to be a likely subject for a comedy but that's where you would be wrong and right, all at the same time. From the moment he and Su-ni strap on their alien-immunity hard hats, with the little motorized rotating antennae attached, you'll find yourself willingly immersed in a mad-cap and extremely deranged world. I have talked a lot in reviews of South Korean films about the country's filmmakers' unrivalled ability to mix genres and film types and that ability is used perfectly throughout Save The Green Planet to mould viewers' emotions and allegiances. The lead up to Kang's torture is so truly funny (with more than one reference to Scorcese's "King Of Comedy") that even as Kang's torture begins viewers are still firmly on Byeong-gu's side. However as the overall genre seamlessly morphs into a brutality akin to a Park Chan-wook epic we, as an audience, are caught off guard by the seriousness of the acts that Byeong-gu is committing and begin to feel sorry for the poor businessman, only to find our emotional attachments being turned upside down yet again by the revelation that Su-ni discovers regarding her relationship with Byeong-gu and also by the discovery of the contents of Byeong-gu's journal.
While Save the Green Planet presents itself on the surface as a comedy/horror film about aliens it is in fact a multi-themed, multi-layered work and as such the comedy tag almost does the film an injustice. The idea that a person's actions can have much farther reaching consequences than that person could ever know is shown through Byeong-gu's perceptions of himself, of others and of his place in the world all having been coloured by the actions of others, and these in turn affect the people he subsequently interacts with. For every physical torture that Kang has to face at the hands of Byeong-gu other characters (most notably Su-ni) have to face tortures of a different kind. Byeong-gu may feel that his obsessed actions come as a reaction to the facts as he sees them but regardless of whether or not his beliefs are true the result is the same - his actions not only hurt his victims but also those around him and ultimately himself.
As if that wasn't enough, the film also alludes to working conditions in South Korea at the time. The reference to Byeong-gu’s previous girlfriend’s murder by corporate gangsters and Kang’s company being responsible for his mother’s illness are at the same time vital plot points and statements on the activities of corrupt corporate heads and their firm grip on labour unions in the country during the period.

Let's not forget, however, that Save The Green Planet is a comedy (sorry for any injustice caused by that statement) and an accomplished one at that. Parodies range from genre (for example the classic idea of a serial killer movie where a disgraced policeman, opposed to both the killer and the authorities, is the only one who can put the clues together) to specific film homages including "Bladerunner", "The Usual Suspects" and Kubrick's "2001". The dialogue is witty and intelligent and care is taken to ensure empathy between viewers and the characters. And the plot? No matter how bonkers it may sound (and is) you'll find yourself questioning whether Byeong-gu is really crazy after all.


Note: The images directly above are taken from the "2001" homage piece in "Save The Green Planet" and have not been posted here simply as gratuitous female nudity.

Cast and Crew:

It is hard to believe that Save The Green Planet is Jang Jun-hwan's directorial debut. He has a keen eye for shots with detailed nuances and, obviously being a fan of classic sci-fi, is able to effectively reference specific looks from the subjects of his homages/parodies on a limited budget. He uses colour to provoke emotional feel repeatedly and his approach to this is very reminiscent of Kim Jee-woon's use of the flower motif in A Tale Of Two Sisters. The limit of the budget is only shown to have been an issue during the last few scenes of the film where the use of cgi is clearly noticeable, but by that point viewers will have had such an enjoyable experience watching the movie that they'll happily let that fly without too much criticism.
The entire cast provide stellar performances especially Shin Ha-kyun (who previously starred in JSA and Sympathy For Mr Vengeance) as Byeong-gu. His ability to show total belief and conviction at the same time as utter ridiculousness is a sight to behold. It is claimed that he signed onto the project on the strength of the script alone which is easy to believe considering how him throws himself into the character wholeheartedly. Baek Yun-shik as Kang Man-shik gives a suitably irate business-like performance and Hwang Jeong-min gives a genuine warmth and lovelorn innocence to the character of Su-ni.

Directed By: Jang Jun-hwan

Cast (Actor ... Character)

Shin Ha-kyun ... Lee Byeong-gu
Baek Yun-shik ... Kang Man-shik
Hwang Jeong-min ... Su-ni
Lee Jae-yong ... Inspector Choo
Lee Ju-hyeon ... Inspector Kim
Gi Ju-bong ... Squad Leader Lee



The DVD reviewed is the region 2 Tartan Video release, provided as a two disc special edition. Colours are clear and rich and the film print is exceptionally clean. There is minor ghosting present on a couple of the darker scenes but the picture quality is, in general, crisp. Sound is well spread across channels and is uniform throughout.

Format: PAL, Widescreen
Main Language: Korean
Available Audio Tracks: DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English
Disc Format: DVD 9
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 2
Classification: 18
Studio: Tartan Video
Run Time: 113 minutes

DVD Features:

Deleted Scenes
Director Commentary
Cast And Crew Interviews
Behind The Scenes
Jamie Russell Film Notes

All images © Tartan Video
Review © P. Quinn