Lee Joon Ik directing a comedy-drama about an underground rapper may seem like an odd combo at first glance considering that his last three films were the serious historical dramas Anarchist from Colony
and The Throne
(and before that, the devastating Hope
). But the director's earlier filmography was actually inclined towards comedies and films with music and performance, like Radio Star
, The Happy Life
and The King and the Clown
. Lee Joon Ik's long-dormant sense of humor finally makes a welcome return in Sunset in My Hometown
Dongju's Park Jung Min plays struggling rapper Hak Soo who goes by the stage name Simbbuk. He has auditioned for every season of Mnet's rap competition program Show Me the Money, but he chokes and does poorly every time, making him the butt of jokes. Those familiar with Show Me the Money will definitely get a good laugh from the references and cameos, like Mad Clown, The Quiett and Dok2 who appear as producers and Andup who shows surprisingly natural acting skills as Hak Soo's buddy.
Hak Soo left his hometown in a huff at a young age to pursue rap music, but he hasn't exactly made something of himself in Seoul (though he's managed to attract a few hilarious schoolgirl groupies). When his estranged father falls ill, he finally and reluctantly makes the trip back home to Byeonsan. There he reconnects with old acquaintances, including a lovable Kim Go Eun, and gradually makes amends with the father whom he still holds a grudge against.
As one of those classic homecoming stories about the return of the prodigal son, Sunset in My Hometown nimbly weaves family drama, awkward reunions, high school memories, hints of romance – and rap and poetry. The film is warm, funny and relatable with a pinch of zaniness, and Park Jung Min is amusing as the unamused protagonist. The actor has already proven his acting chops many times, but this time he surprises with his rapping talent. With his flow and delivery, Park Jung Min could probably get past the first two rounds of Show Me the Money in real life.
For me, one of the most exciting things about Lee Joon Ik returning to a music-themed film is actually the music. Composer/music director Bang Joon Seok does his best work on Lee Joon Ik films – I still listen to the Radio Star soundtrack – and he's in top form for Sunset in My Hometown. From the retro sounds of youth to the angry and melancholic rap numbers that reveal inner thoughts, the music in Sunset in My Hometown builds just the right mood for the protagonist and his humble hometown where the sunset is free.