DVD Review: Hyung-rae Shim's 'The Last Godfather'

August 5, 2011



Coming out on DVD on August 9 is The Last Godfather, the American debut of Hyung-rae Shim, a popular comedian in Korea who wrote, directed and starred in the film. The film can be summed up as Mr. Bean meets The Godfather, a mafia spoof with a bit of Police Academy and Donnie Brasco thrown in. While that description sounds somewhat attractive, and indeed the film does feature a rather impressive cast dotted with veteran of the mobster film genre -- including Harvey Keitel (Mean Streets) and Jon Polito (Miller's Crossing) -- The Last Godfather is beset by regrettable immaturity in its humor and a general lack of storytelling competence. As a result, even viewed as the crudest parody of parodies, it simply fails to deliver any semblance of entertainment.  

The film's preposterous plot is set in motion when Don Corini (Harvey Keitel, god knows why he signed up for this) decides to pass the throne to his long-lost son, Younggu, whom he fathered while hiding in Korea instead of Sicily to escape from a mob hit. As soon as Younggu shows up at the Corini compound, it becomes obvious to everyone that he is simply a dimwit who has no business being a mobster. So predictably goes the rest of the film, which uses Younggu's clumsiness as a basis for crude slapstick comedy that usually plays out in the pattern of showing how everything he fails at ends up helping him to score unexpected criminal success, and even romance.

While it's nice to see more crossover films (financed by Asian investors and featuring Asian stars in American settings), The Last Godfather does absolutely nothing to improve the image of Asians in Hollywood. Shim's aim is obviously to earn cheap laughs, but his brand of self-deprecating toilet humor lacks the innocent wit of the original Mr. Bean, or the brazen outrageousness of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat. Whether Shim intends to pump laughs from adults or four-year-olds is another question (he made his name in Korea making children’s films). Still, it's hard to see anyone stomaching The Last Godfather through its 100 minute-long entirety, with or without the attention span of a four-year-old. Just as Don Corini chides Younggu after one of his early failed escapades -- "What the hell are you doing?" -- so should we should be asking Shim, and anyone else for watching this film.  Forgettaboutit.