The story of a cab driver in Yanji City, a region between North Korea, China and Russia. His wife goes to Korea to earn money, but he doesn't hear from her since in 6 months. He plays ... See full summary »
After a thirteen-year imprisonment for the kidnap and murder of a six-year-old boy, Guem-Ja Lee seeks vengeance on the man truly responsible for the boy's death. With the help of fellow ... See full summary »
In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 ... See full summary »
Byung-du is a 29-year-old career criminal, working for the middle-rank enforcer Sang-chul. Burdened with a terminally ill mother and taking care of younger siblings, Byung-du is feeling ... See full summary »
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The narration that opens and closes the film are Buddhist parables. See more »
Toward the end of the film, when Kim Sun-woo is walking down the corridor searching for his former boss, a guard sitting and reading a newspaper gets up to stop him. Kim Sun-woo shoots him but his gun is not pointed at the guard. Rather, it is clearly pointed at the wall where fake blood appears after the shot like a paint gun. See more »
I could sit here and start this review off any number of ways to make this film sound ultra important. I could say, once in a great while a film comes along, blah, blah. Or, Only a select few films ever have reached this, blah, blah. Or I could say, if you see one movie this year, blah, blah. You know the drill. These are the opening sentences the big-boy critics use when they really want you to see a flick and when they want a particular review to really stand out. Well, films that deserve this kind of "special" praise really do only come around once in a great while. Unbelievably, I have seen two in only six months time. The first was what I like to call the first real 21st Century film, and that was Oldboy. And the second film of this status also comes from Korea, believe it or not, and it is Bittersweet Life.
Bittersweet Life is probably one of the most simple, most streamlined modern films I have ever seen. It is lean, mean, and like its lead male, a damn ruthless fighting machine. The film beats along with its Raymond Chandler-like screenplay with all the jazz and style of early 90's John Woo and with the energy and themes of Quentin Tarantino's grind house 70's. Life plays with your emotions, making you care for the bad-guy hero even though he is a vicious killer, and causes one to release tension through laughter when the blood starts gushing like a dozen ruptured fire hoses. Wholesale death, blood by the gallons, broken bones and multiple beatings with humongous pipe-wrenches, two-by-fours, and lead pipes are on order, right after a heaping dish of innocent love and a guy trying for once to do the right thing.
The plot, well you see, it's like this: you can see everything coming a mile away, the movie plays it straight, and follows the exact path you know it will and the exact path you hope it will. There are no twist endings, no complicated triple crosses, no hidden motives for the characters. Everything on screen happens the way you see it, and everything thing ends exactly the way you picture it. And this is a good thing. The film is so on track that it doesn't need a twist or a swerve to make you pay attention. It starts at A, ends at E, and hits B, C and D on the way there. Life is so steeped in its genre tropes of noir character and themes that the ending is know to all of us before it even starts. However, it's the journey that matters, and I'll be damned if you can find a better-looking, more brutally violent journey anywhere.
As much as I try to analyze the film, nothing comes to mind. And this is the purest of all compliments. The film is as shallow as the pools of blood splattered in the hallways, alleyways and run down exteriors of the sets. Often times a director feels the need to bog a simple story down with twists, and a deeper meaning to hide the fact that they are afraid to just let things happen because they need to happen. Bittersweet Life is not one of these films. It exists with its soul laid bare for all to see, and when the carnage is complete, you thank the film for being honest with itself. As the final credits roll you might find yourself asking, "Is that it?" Yes, that is itcinematic perfection. It is all it needs to be: pure and simple, boisterous and calm, bloody and drenched in gore and an honest movie with nothing to hide.
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