Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Monday, April 24, time 3.00 PM


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In the summer of 2009, a comic drama about ski jumping called Take-Off unexpectedly took the Korean box office by storm. Starring Ha Jung-woo, the film centered around a ragtag group of underperformers who are thrown together in a bid to create South Korea’s first national ski jumping team. Based (more or less) on a true story, the film captured the nation’s attention and sold 8.1 million tickets.

Seven years later, a sequel of sorts has emerged. But rather than revisiting the same characters, or focusing on a different group of ski jumpers, the producers decided (like those of the popular Whispering Corridors series) to instead to carry over only the original film’s basic formula. Also based on a true story (more or less), Run-Off switches sports and genders to focus on a ragtag group of underperformers who are thrown together in a bid to create South Korea’s first-ever national women’s hockey team.
At first glance, this looks like an unreachable goal. Although most of the women know how to skate (the members include a figure skater and a former speedskater who was expelled from the national team), they don’t know how to play hockey. The lone exception is Ri Ji-won, a North Korean defector who was once a key player on that country’s accomplished national team. But she is an unwilling participant, forced to join the team when her only wish is to emigrate to Finland. Meanwhile the opening of the 2003 Asian Winter Games in Aomori, Japan, where South Korea is scheduled to compete with four other countries, draws ever closer.

As you can see, the setup for Run-Off is about as formulaic as you can get. And despite the best efforts of well-known character actor Oh Dal-su (The Master, Ode to My Father) in the role of the coach, the first half of the film fails to spark. But then something happens about halfway in. Partly it’s the charisma of the various actresses who make up the team’s players, especially the inimitable Su Ae (The Flu, A Family) as Ji-won. Although the screenplay is merely so-so at situational comedy, it is quite effective at characterization, so that the more time we spend in the company of these women, the more we become absorbed in their story. Then comes a rather bold plot development in the film’s climax, which among other things, brings the red-hot young actress Park So-dam (The Priests) onto the screen. Like a star player substituting in late in the match, Park’s arrival changes the whole tenor of the film.

Those who wish to find faults in Run-Off will find no shortage of targets, and it’s true that its box office take (700,000 admissions) was a mere fraction of the original film. But in many ways this is a much more enjoyable movie. Compared to Take-Off, there is less nationalistic posturing, and more heart. The final match contains considerably more drama. And it’s a rare sports movie where in the end, the numbers on the scoreboard at the final buzzer are not what we most care about. Despite a weak start, Run-Off finishes strong, with energy left to spare.
Darcy Paquet
Film director: 
Kim Joun-hyun
Running time: 




  • Run Off 00
  • Run Off 01
  • Run Off 02
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