(Original Review Date: 1/2007)
Park Chan-wook, in an exodus from the revenge films (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) that brought him critical and world-wide acclaim, comes I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, a quirky drama/comedy about a girl, Cha Young-Goon (Im Su-jeong), who believes she is a cyborg. Young-Goon’s belief is so strong she attempts to charge herself in an electrical outlet, almost dies in the process and is thrown into a sanatorium for observation and treatment. There Young-Goon meets a gaggle of delusional nutcases and crazies who at times actually make Young-Goon seem as though she is sane one of the bunch. She isn’t sane however as she hears radio signals designed specifically for her and that revolve around her plight.
The other main character and clearly unhinged individual in this film is Park Ll-soon (Rain). Ll-soon is a mask-wearing psych-ward patient who steals other patients belongings, whether it’s a physical object or a part of their damaged personalities. The reason why Ll-soon became a “stealthy” thief and why Young-goon thinks she is a cyborg, along with what generated the other patients’ psychosis, is very entertaining and is handled with the same light touch as the quieter moments in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance.
When Ll-soon steals a person’s personality trait, through a really goofy ritual, he takes on those traits himself. One of the other patients in the sanitarium walks backwards all the time so he won’t offend people. Ll-soon steals that affliction from him and then he begins walking backward himself while the other patient is placebo-cured of it. Young-goon is no less weird. Since she believes she is a cyborg, she won’t eat food and tries to recharge herself and get the energy she needs by tonguing the tips of AA batteries.
Young-goon soon discovers Ll-soon thieving ability and begs him to steal away all of her sympathy (a small nod to Park’s other films) so she can kill the White’uns, the nurses and doctors of the hospital who Young-goon blames for taking away her disturbed grandmother. Once they are dead, Young-goon will be able to deliver her grandmother’s dentures to her (though she doesn’t even know if her grandmother is still alive or even in the same hospital as she is). This is all explained by the simple fact that Young-goon is crazy.
Young-goon and Ll-soon begin to form a bond, sort of like James Cole (Bruce Willis) and Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) did in 12 Monkeys. Ll-soon even tries to stop the doctors from feeding Young-goon against her will through a tube and is thrown into a padded room for his trouble. What was friendship soon starts to become something else between Young-goon and Ll-soon. To help Young-goon, Ll-soon begins feeding into her delusion while at the same time secretly doing what is best for her and her health.