A lunatic sci-fi thriller from Korea that only loses its nerve somewhere close to the end—and then redeems itself with a wildly bizarre conclusion—Save the Green Planet is about the best science fiction slapstick since The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. Starting as any good conspiracy story does, with a slide show of the culprits, the film initially gives us the world as seen through the eyes of Lee Byeong-Gu (Shin Ha-Gyun, mixing a perfect brew of psychosis and soulfulness), a disgruntled guy who believes that aliens from Andromeda have been planning to take over the world for some time now, and of course only he knows about it. With the help of his pudgy circus performer girlfriend Sooni (Hwang Jung-Min), he kidnaps the CEO of a chemical company, Kang Man-Shik (Baek Yun-Shik), and proceeds to do everything that he’s got to in order to uncover the truth of the alien invasion.
Director/writer Jang Jun-Hwan keeps things popping from the get-go, setting up his mismatched couple in deranged trashbag outfits (including helmets with whirring gadgets) and blasting a pop-punk cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” as the two of them take off into the night, their human (or alien?) cargo in back. There’s a fair amount of slapstick running all through the film, from the rather juvenile kidnapping scheme to the long stretch where Kang is imprisoned in the basement of Lee’s hideout, first trying to convince Lee he’s not an alien and then later claiming he is—whatever will work. The comedy tinges black fairly fast, as we discover Lee has done this same thing to at least a dozen other people who he thought were aliens, only to have them up and die on him (aliens would have been tougher, you see). And when the cops start circling closer in their search for Kang, shards of Lee’s traumatized past come to light, limning the roots of his madness, a nice little puzzle that clicks together satisfyingly near the end.
Unfortunately, we are treated to a batch of clichés as Save the Green Planet comes to a conclusion—many lifted from lesser serial killer thrillers in which the murderer becomes endowed with near supernatural powers of foresight and ability to recover from injuries—as well as a truckload of the kind of squirm-inducing violence that we’ve come to expect from a growing number of Asian imports. But through it all Jang Jun-Hwan manages an impressive balancing act, never allowing the blackness of the comedy and the innate surreality of the film’s conceit obscure the fact that these are real people we are watching.