Another problem is the strangely unconvincing characterization of Han Suk-kyu's Agent Jeong, compared to his Northern counterparts. DP Choi Young-hwan (The Thieves), reunited with Ryoo after a decade following their collaboration in No Blood No Tears (2002), and Lighting Director Kim Seong-gwan portray Berlin, through impressively extensive location shooting, as a city pregnant with old secrets, bustling with busy population yet pocketed with dark corners and wood-paneled back rooms.
The hand-to-hand combat choreography, designed by Ryoo's longtime collaborator Jeong Doo-hong and Seoul Action School, actually works better when it is essentially two people smashing each other with various kitchen implements and office tools in a narrow apartment corridor.
He urges her to buy his masterwork, "Instructions on How to Use Men," telling her that it will change her life, and give her the skills she needs to find success and happiness. Director Lee Won-suk, a graduate of the American Film Institute, maintains great comic timing and even manages to keep the audience's interest in the final reels, which are a weak point of many Korean romantic comedies.
Boosted by great performances and a multitude of gags that are genuinely funny, the film produced strong word-of-mouth among viewers, though not soon enough to save it in a month when it was sharing screens with box office behemoths The Berlin File, New World and Miracle in Cell No. Much of the buzz surrounding this film centers on the two charismatic leads.
(Kyu Hyun Kim) Choi Bona is overworked and underpaid in one of Korea's most selfless jobs: she is an assistant director.
Casually disregarded by her work colleagues, she knows that her career is going nowhere, but there's nothing she can do about it. Stranded on a beach in the middle of nowhere, she comes across an eccentric middle-aged man selling inspirational videos. How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is in some ways a fairly standard Korean romantic comedy, except that it's funnier and more engaging, and ultimately much better than you would expect.
Lee Si-young has an unusual star image: she is unique in simultaneously pursuing a career as an actress, while also competing as an amateur boxer.
Lee originally learned boxing as part of her preparation to act in a TV drama, but then she continued training and eventually won several amateur boxing championships in the 48kg weight category.
Despite being the object of ridicule in numerous scenes, his underlying, offbeat charm runs constant throughout the film.
Although this doesn't bear directly on her role in How to Use Guys with Secret Tips, her slightly "tough" image remains in the back of viewers' minds, and is toyed with in certain scenes.
The actor playing opposite her, Oh Jung-se, portrays a massively popular star who initially treats Bona with disdain, but later falls for her charm.
Jeon matches him blow by blow as a radiant beauty whose disappointment in her husband (and her life) is eating her from inside out.
And as usual, Ryoo Seung-beom is fantastic as a sadistic, leering North Korean assassin, who perfectly captures the mock-suave panache of a European-boarding-school-educated, jet set kid easing into a life of immediate (material) gratification and criminal activities.
Neither do, despite the crowd-pleasing presence of Han Suk-kyu, Southern agents play a significant role in The Berlin File.