So once again we have survived.

A Bittersweet Life

tn_bittersweetlifeKim Sun-Woo (Lee Byung-hun, the ninja-in-white from GI JOE) is the liver of the titular life, and at first I gotta say it mostly seems sweet. He works at a hotel (but really he’s an enforcer) and he seems to be very good at his job. In fact he’s very good at other people’s jobs too, because when some slacker isn’t there to take care of some rowdy guests from a rival gang Kim goes downstairs and personally martial arts the shit out of them.

mp_bittersweetlifeI think we can all be honest and mature adults and everything and we can admit that this guy is very handsome and well dressed. He might qualify as a “pretty boy” if he wasn’t so ready to dish out a skillfully executed asskicking. It just doesn’t seem fair, the guy is too perfect. Also his boss seems to think he’s great. He trusts him with confidential information and with a crucial job: looking after his underage girlfriend. So our boy becomes sort of an assistant or a bodyguard to this college (I hope?) girl. Drive her around, help her out if she needs anything, trail her if she tries to sneak off.

Oh yeah, one other thing: she might be cheating with a young dude and if she is he just has to kill both of them. No big deal.

Okay, it’s pretty clear where the sweet is gonna take a turn for the bitter. But actually that taste has been forming even earlier, since the opening scene, we just didn’t know it at the time. His awesomeness alone causes problems. For one thing, he made his co-worker look bad by cleaning up that mess downstairs. Because he kicked so much ass everybody heard that the other guy was fucking around and not doing his job.

And of course the guys he beat up were not so happy about it either, and went to complain to their boss, who took it as a personal insult. A bunch of fuckin drama queens in these gangs. So Sun-Woo’s got jealousy and grudges coming from both sides. And then of course you gotta figure he’s gonna bond with the girl, and if not get sweet on her then at least feel sorry for her and not wanna kill her when it comes to that. If it does. I mean who knows, I’m not gonna say. It could be anything. Everybody might just stay friends at the end. (stop reading now if you would like to maintain that belief.)

The first chunk of the movie is so slick and clean that I kinda forgot this was a Korean movie and that shit was gonna get fuckin bad. Not Hong Kong bad, like everybody gets shot – Korea bad, like everybody wishes they would get shot instead of what happens to them instead. This Sun-Woo guy gets run through the ringer like Mel Gibson’s directing him or something. After wearing his nice clothes, working in his fancy hotel, living in his neat apartment, suddenly he gets tied up and tortured in a warehouse somewhere. This is a noticeable drop in quality of living.

It’s funny because it’s clear that he’s done some cold-hearted shit in the past, but it’s the act of mercy that gets him into trouble. He could’ve probly avoided some of it if he would’ve apologized when they asked him to, but he has a code of honor and/or is stubborn as a bitter teenage mule whose parents are going through a divorce, so he won’t apologize for something he doesn’t feel sorry about.

Anyway, he escapes and goes on a one-man revenge spree against pretty much everybody, because they’re all against him. He uses his smarts and his insider knowledge of the organized crime structure to orchestrate it all. There’s also alot of lack of communication going on here that helps. Everybody has cell phones but they don’t always talk to the right person or tell them the right thing.

It looks great, the action is clear and brutal and the character is cool. I like how internal he is. We understand what’s going on without him having to talk much. He doesn’t have to tell anybody what he’s feeling or what he’s done in the past. And he’s such a loner, it’s kinda sad. You can tell he likes when he gets to interact with the girl. Most of the time he’s sitting in his car spying on people. I bet he almost wishes he had responsibilities back at the hotel, making sure all the towels get washed and all that shit. Might be more fun. He’s not really into fun, though. He’s very serious about everything and doesn’t participate when the other dudes are getting drunk and laughing and shit.

He’s kind of a wet blanket, now that I think about it. But I still root for him while watching the movie.

There are plenty of badass moments and scenes. My favorite is the one where he goes and meets with an arms dealer under false pretenses. Sun-Woo goes to pick up some unique guns claiming they’re for somebody he really doesn’t work for. While an underling in the other room calls in to verify his story the dealer figures it’s just a formality and uses the time to teach Sun-Woo how these particular guns work. They’re sitting there at a table taking the guns apart and putting them back together when it suddenly becomes clear to everybody that he’s not who he says he is. And there’s a moment where they stare at each other, no words spoken, and then race to be the first one to get their gun put back together.

To me a movie that has a moment as good as that is worth watching, and this movie has a bunch of them.

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Thank you to everybody that recommended this one to me

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

65 Responses to “A Bittersweet Life”

  1. Good review there, Vern. Lee Byung-hun is one charismatic cat.

    My only real problem with it was, much like The Man From Nowhere, it became more and more overwrought as the film progressed. This was a curse on HK flicks and I hate to see it seeping into Korea films, too.

    The action was badass and the humor was nicely black – the arms dealer scene was pure Tarantino.

    Oh, and as others have said on here, everyone on this site should see The Good The Bad The Weird – right fucking NOW.

  2. Kim’s TALE OF TWO SISTERS is pretty fantastic, and THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD is enjoyable even though I think maybe it was over-hyped for me, so I should probably seek this one out. This review might be what pushes me over the edge to finnaly see it.

    Has anyone seen I SAW THE DEVIL and is it as awesome as it sounds?

  3. Caught I SAW THE DEVIL at Fantastic Fest. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

    A BITTERSWEET LIFE SPOILERS (BIG TIME)
    ________________________________

    Vern, what do you think about the theory the whole thing is Sun-Woo’s character’s dream? The last shot of him in his apartment (after he’s been killed) hamming in the mirror isn’t something his character would do, I don’t think. And what’s the point of that last shot otherwise? He is impossibly badass.

  4. Dan, the idea is awesome (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS meets THE BOURNE IDENTITY), the execution is great, but ultimately I SAW THE DEVIL suffers from that classic Asian movies syndrome: it doesn’t actually have the middle part, just some weird shit that keeps happening over and over again.

  5. I think they used a similar gun building scene in another Korean thriller, SHIRI. It was a pretty unremarkable, very Hollywood-like action flick, but I remember the gun scene.

    If I recall correctly, it was part of a montage about training secret North Korean sleeper agents to work in the South. Two trainees had dismantled guns before them – whoever got his/her gun together first and shot the other student won.

  6. “I Saw The Devil” was quite a fantastic little motion picture. Also, now that we’ve moved on from the review proper I’ll use this thread to say that “The Man From Nowhere” has the chance to be a pulse pounding, unmitigated epic bit of ass kickery from about the thirty minute mark, but they pussy foot around a lot in the movie, before hell breaks loose with thirty minutes left. They should’ve kicked more cripples though. I’d be a little happier with the finished product.

    About this film, Lee Byung Hun loves himself some bringing the heat, early and often. I read somewhere that this movie allegedly inspired Xavier Gens, the director of “Hitman” with Timothy Olyphant. I don’t see how at all. If you even think about this movie in the process of crafting another action movie you should be able to accidentally create a moment or two worthwhile, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication that that Gens fellow knew you could do good things with a camera, script, actors or anything.

    Also, I guess specifically to HT, “Shiri” was my first exposure to Korean cinema and I don’t think it was a bad way to start. Kang Jegyu reminds me of a 90s era Michael Bay, which isn’t awful, but he was also able to remind me of Spielberg with his follow-up “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.” I think the guy is pretty good at aping styles. Perhaps it’s fair to call him the Korean Martin Campbell, not that Campbell apes styles or anything, but he’s the name you look to when you obviously don’t want one extreme but can’t afford the other.

  7. I would check this out, but I’m not sure where from. Can’t find it anywhere (at least, not for UK release).

    Anyway, I’m sick to the back teeth of bad or at least overrated American action movies right now (“Expendables” being the final nail in that coffin, so to speak) so I might start working through some of the Asian stuff I’ve bookmarked. Hopefully it turns out better.

  8. How far did you look? It’s up on Amazon for £5.99, or for 20p more there’s a double Kim Ji Woon thing for 20p more with A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. Can’t argue with that.

  9. Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that SHIRI was bad. It was just really conventional and not very memorable. I do remember the cool training montage and I recall liking the soundtrack. Nothing much else.

    But I guess it’s been a decade or so (IMDB says the movie came out in 1999) since I saw it on an impulse rental. Maybe I should give it another go.

  10. Deadbeat – I didn’t think of that, but I don’t think I would like that ending. I’d have to see the scene again to know what to think of it, but it doesn’t sound likely to me.

    I’ve noticed that before, sometimes people try to read a ghost or a dream into a movie that doesn’t need it.

  11. Dude, why not just torrent the damn thing?

  12. I thought the ending was pretty clearly as mentioned above also, didn’t even seem ambiguous. Been a while since I’ve seen it though.

  13. billydeethrilliams

    March 15th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    This one was great and I really want to see I Saw The Devil. If the action is anything like Bittersweet I’m sold. And the gun dismantling scene always sticks out to me for some reason, but my other favorite is the assholes in the car scene. I think that scene is a good public service to be respectful to other drivers.

  14. “Not Hong Kong bad, like everybody gets shot – Korea bad, like everybody wishes they would get shot instead of what happens to them instead.”
    Classic. Where does Thailand bad fit in the scale? I mean, look at what happened to a lot of the villagers in BORN TO FIGHT(half of them seem to be wiped out just in the initial takeover of their town), or the mother in CHOCOLATE(toe cut off, cancer, shot).

  15. I Saw the Devil is actually more badass than it sounds.

  16. A BITTERSWEET LIFE ENDING SPOILERS

    Wait, people actually think that it was all a dream because there is a flashback to him shadowboxing at the end? I don’t follow that logic. I thought the scene was there to underline the tragic nature of the ending. It shows that, yes, this impossibly badass guy was human. There was one time when he horsed around. Saving the one time smiles for the very end makes the ending even more emotional, more bittersweet. Basically it’s a way, way better version of those Polaroids Of Happier Times that you often see show up ironically at the end of horror films.

  17. What Kim Jee-Woon himself has to say about that bit at the end (from here – http://koreanfilm.org/kimjw.html):

    What about the very final shot, where Lee Byung-hun boxes against his own reflection?

    That is the key sequence expressing the essence of the character. It is an effective manner of projecting the character’s inner self to the exterior. Sun-woo is a character whose idea of himself is entirely determined by the ideas others have of him. He thinks of himself only as reflected in other people’s view of him, and he believes to be like that. He is a character who has never questioned himself before.

    In the last scene, when Sun-woo boxes against his reflection, I wanted to convey the idea that, in the battle against himself, he lost. If you look carefully at the ending, you will notice that his reflection disappears first, leaving only the glass and outside panorama before the credits.

  18. one guy from andromeda

    March 15th, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    i got this cause someone recommended it in another review response thread here, but havent seen it yet. definitely at the top of the list now, sounds great.

  19. I think Korea might be the most reliable country for badass cinema right now. I made it to Fantastic Fest last year and every Korean film I saw was great – The Man From Nowhere, Bedevilled (I haven’t heard anyone mention this film, but it’s Awesome. About a lady who vacations on what seems to be idyllic, but is actually super messed up island), and The Housemaid. I didn’t get into I Saw the Devil, but everyone, including people here, say it’s amazing. I’ll have to check this out as well.

  20. Thanks for the link, Caoimhín. I loved that last shot because it was so poetic. Apparently it’s actually more poetic than I realized.

  21. With all these “hitman/criminal has a change of heart about their profession” movie reviews lately, are we going to get an IN BRUGES one any time soon, Vern?

  22. I love the post-burial fight, with all the running instead of him straight fighting five-hundred guys, and the track up to the fellow at the end that gets shot unceremoniously out the window. There’s a ton of camerawork in this that’s awesome without screaming look at me. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is pretty alright, but the action scenes are all twice as long as they need to be and all the impressive camerawork in the world couldn’t stave off the tedium.

  23. Knox Harrington

    March 16th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for finally watching this film, Vern. Glad you liked it. Next time you’re in the mood for a good Korean film, watch The Chaser. Highly recommended.

    As for the ending to A Bittersweet Life… Yeah, I also never saw it as a dream at all, just a flashback of better, more hopeful times. I’m kinda glad Kim Ji-Woon has completely dismissed the “dream” option (as can be seen in an interview on the Region 2 disc). It’s nice when a filmmaker doesn’t pussyfoot around about what he meant to say.

    Anyway, I effing love A Bittersweet Life. For me, it’s one of the few action movies with a true sense of substance, character and great storytelling subtext.

  24. Second the motion to award South Korea title of Most-Consistent-Makers-of-Badass-Cinema.

    The Vengeance Trilogy
    Thirst
    The Host
    Mother
    The Good, The Bad, The Weird
    Attack the Gas Station
    Save the Green Planet!

    These are the ones I have seen. Save the Green Planet is about as rollickin’ good of a time as you can have at the pictures.

  25. Knox Harrington

    March 17th, 2011 at 3:42 am

    I’ll add a few more to that list:

    Bad Guy
    Public Enemy
    The Chaser
    Memories of Murder (Brilliant. Right up there with Fincher’s Zodiac)

    And you’re absolutely right about Save The Green Planet, Renfield. City of Violence is good fun too.

  26. No moment was pure Tarantino… Tarantino is the one copying this moments. Please show more respect where it’s due ok?

  27. Hey, have you guys heard this new theory that Tarantino copies every single thing he does word for word and shot for shot from other movies? I hear it’s sweeping the nation.

    By the way, it’s still 1995, right? I haven’t changed my calendar in a while.

  28. Fuhgeddaboutit, Mr. M, it doesn’t matter. That Tarantino kid’s a flash in the pan anyhow. Is there any truth to the rumor that movies might be coming out on CDs soon?

  29. Heh heh heh, you guys crack me up.

  30. Damn! I just fell of my chair and spilled my beer all over the floor ´cause of your guys awesomeness! Thanks a lot!

  31. I apologize to your beer. It didn’t deserve that. Not on St. Patty’s.

  32. I’ll pour out some liquor to commemorate the unfortunate passing of your beer.

  33. Well… actually, Tarantino does that. Since the beggining of his career through this very day in 2011. I never said it was a bad thing, just that it WAS. You can live with it or you can’t.

    Now, I insist, there are no Tarantino moments in this movie, characters here speak fewer words in the whole movie than in the first 15 minutes of Inglorious Basterds (w-what, Tarantino doesn’t steal the titles of his movies because he changes one letter? Ok, got it. My bad. No… really).

    You crack me up too ;). Don’t know much about movies, but a funny man… you are Mr. Maj…

  34. Ivan –

    I don’t think he was saying the movie copied Tarantino, he just meant it was a great scene that reminded him of great scenes in Tarantino movies. I think so far everybody’s been unanimous in praising this movie, as well as the cinematic output of its country of origin, so there’s no need to get up in arms.

    Mr. Majestyk was just teasing you because the “Tarantino has copied other movies” argument has been covered to death in these comment threads and my reviews and is a huge pet peeve of some of us that we’ve been over about thirty two thousand times. But not everybody has read everything here so don’t worry about it. I’m glad to have new commenters.

    And Mr. Majestyk actually does know alot about movies as well as other topics such as music and big butt magazines. Let’s all try to get along, fellas.

    thanks Ivan

  35. Fellas, big thanks for all the recommendations – I certainly going to check out Attack the Gas Station and Save the Green Planet! and I think that Memories of Murder is actually on par with Fincher’s Se7en, not Zodiac.

    But how Mother is badass cinema? Isn’t it about an old lady trying to prove her retarded son’s innocence or something like that?

  36. Hey, since we’re talking South Korean cinema here, I have a question for folks who might be a little more familiar with the country than I am. Off the top of my head, I can think of several RELATIVELY RECENT Korean movies I’ve seen (MOTHER, MEMORIES OF MURDER, SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE, OASIS, maybe one more but it’s not coming to me) where the story prominently features a mentally handicapped man who is left unsupervised and ends up causing some serious problems. Also, these characters tend to get abused/exploited by the police in these films.

    Is this some sort of serious, hot-button social issue in South Korea? Do they have a high population of mentally handicapped individuals not receiving proper care? Or is it just a weird coincidence?

  37. Whoops, don’t know why I capitalized “relatively recent.” That was weird.

  38. Ivan: Vern’s right, I was just giving you a hard time. I know Tarantino steals a lot of stuff (plot points, images, character names, etc.) from a variety of sources—none of which you could say are anything at all like a Tarantino movie. He takes all these elements and transforms them into something more personal by filtering them through his unique perspective. He’s the soul of his movies, not his influences. Some people don’t think the moviesadd up to more than the sum of their thefts, though, but that’s cool. No hard feelings.

    Vern: I am so putting that on my résumé.

  39. Besides, if you go to that link Caoimhín posted (http://koreanfilm.org/kimjw.html) you see that Kim Jee-woon says KILL BILL was one of the main references he used for this movie’s action sequences.

  40. I’ve checked out a few interviews with Kim because of all these discussions that have been going on about his films here. I like what he has to say. He seems to have a good grasp of his films, and good list of influences and a sense of genre film history. I’m a big fan of Park Chan-Wook, to whom you could compare Kim, but he tends to say a lot of weird abstractions when discussing his films that I don’t really understand (which may just be something getting lost in translation). Kim on the other hand is good at clearly articulating his ideas and style in his interviews.

    In general, it seems like South Korea has a great little community of filmmakers who have found the sweet spot where pulpy genre fare can intersect with the arthouse.

  41. And then there’s DRAGON WARZ. The only movie I’ve ever seen that had the power to rob Robert Forster of his dignity.

  42. There’s a good interview the AV Club did with Craig Robinson about D-WAR. The part where they ask him to explain the plot is priceless:

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/craig-robinson,16768/

    It seems like he’s trying to keep it simple, and it still winds up being a rambling paragraph. And he seems like he’s confused himself by the end of his description.

  43. Roachboy — I promise you, MOTHER is badass cinema. Who says a mom can’t be a badass?

  44. The fact that it’s a mom who is so badass is half of what qualifies it. Momsploitation is like, the new, more universal nunsploitation.

    That said, it’s less Oldboy/The Host/STGP! badass and more Lady Vengeance badass. I mean, that movie made pastries badass, no? Cakesploitation.

  45. Also: I really fucking wish Lee Byung-hun was playing Spike Spiegel instead of Keanu Reeves. In Mr. Reeves’ defense, he seems like a genuinely reverent fan of Cowboy Bebop, has a positive and productive rapport with Bebop sensei Watanabe, etc. But come on, Megan Fox as Faye Valentine? I am concerned.

  46. *SPOILER* —

    So, DUMPLINGS was fetusploitation?

    Christ, we must make up more words on this website than Urban Dictionary.

  47. For more Lee Byung-Hun awesomeness, check out Park Chan-Wook’s short film Cut. I thought it was quite good.

    P.S. So I guess Oldboy would count as (Spoilatron!) Daughtersploitation. Good times.

  48. Knox,

    Would it also be toothsploitation and tonguesploitation?

  49. This thread has devolved into wordsmithploitation, and threatens to become pure exploitationsploitation.

  50. Okay, now I have to see MOTHER too. But wasn’t the whole Momsploitation genre started by the formidable Mrs. Voorhees back in 1980?

  51. Might be a stretch, but of course there was PSYCHO 20 years before that. However, the 1st momsploitation movie I can recall showing true traditional homemaker mommying as well as mommy as a humorously violent killer would be SERIAL MOM. Kathleen Turner was awesome in that one.

  52. And there are also Mr. Argento’s movies from DEEP RED straight to PHENOMENA and TRAUMA (they also arguably show more Mom badassness than FRIDAY THE 13th did).

    I don’t think PSYCHO counts as a pure momsploitation movie – clearly it’s deadmomsploitation at its finest.

  53. Speaking of which, Argento fans like myself might be excited to hear (if they didn’t know already) that both DEEP RED and INFERNO are coming to blu-ray in America in the next month or so.

    I try not to spend too much money on movies I already own in other formats, but these seem like unavoidable purchases.

  54. Is the whole Animal Trilogy out in the new format already? The only Argentos I’ve got on Blu-ray are THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and SUSPIRIA.

  55. Moms also have the benefit of instant badass juxtaposition by virtue of their being moms and all.

  56. I’m going to throw in one more Korean movie that is worth seeking out: BREATHLESS, from 2009. It’s about a thug who makes a connection with a troubled high school girl. I know, it sounds mawkish, but it’s executed brilliantly. The main character exhibits traits of a ‘badass,’ but he’s also a giant fucking asshole, so maybe this doesn’t qualify as badass cinema. The movie does contain a lot of unsettling violence and might just hold the record for most profanity ever uttered in a movie. Unfortunately, the movie has yet to find a North American distributor, despite the heaping of praise and awards it earned. It’s vicious, raw, disturbing, beautiful and ultimately quite moving.

  57. No offense, Roachboy, (There’s a fun phrase we’ll only find on the internet, eh?) but I’m a little disappointed in your loose use of the term “badass” to describe old lady Vorhees. She killed a bunch of youths & that 1 creepy dude for no good reason. She was insane, not badass, though she arguably took care of business in her twisted mentality. I nitpick because I love.

    Does Vern have an unequivocal operational definition of “badass” or “badassness” anywhere? It’s well documented, especially in the BLADE list of badass traits, what we mean regarding this important piece of our lexicon, but perhaps now is a good moment for Vern to publish a definitive, um, definition of the term. If it’s already up somewhere, sorry for the redundancy, but a refresher post for posterity could be good, like how the ACLU periodically redistributes their guidance for an individual’s rights in the event he/she is approached by the police (5-0), feds (fifty-thousand), or ICE (cincuenta- millón).

  58. I watched THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD last night. It was amazing! I like the other films you guys talk about here, but man, “Oriental Westerns” needs to be a much more common genre in this world!

  59. if you enjoyed A Bittersweet Life, Vern, you really need to check out “The Chaser”. It’s a really fantastic thriller, bleak and gritty and fantastically shot, there’s a really brilliant foot chase through winding streets.

    To get an idea of how bleak it manages to be – the plot is essentially that a serial killer kidnaps a girl and the only person looking for her is her ex-cop/pimp, who thinks she’s being sold abroad and is pissed off that they’re trying to sell one of his girls hence the reason he’s so eager to find her.

  60. Knox Harrington

    March 21st, 2011 at 3:35 am

    What’s great about The Chaser is that it’s a serial killer movie where the killer gets caught in the first act of the film, but it’s still one of the most tense and suspenseful films I’ve seen in recent years because our hero pimp has to find the missing girl before the killer gets released the next day and finishes the job. Good stuff.

  61. I third the Chaser recommendation. Be wary, though. The less you know, the better. In my experience, anyway.

  62. I didn’t much like THE CHASER. The cops were all incompetent. It had compelling parts, and you guys make it sound better than I remember, but it didn’t do it for me. Decent ending though, pretty scary how all that bad luck added up in favor of the I’ll stop typing now.

    Sorry. I’ll move my urine stream away from your bowl of Cheerios now.

  63. Vern, right on, that was an awesome review man. We did Bittersweet Life on the show a while ago during our Korean Season and it was one of our favourites.

    Lee Byung-Hun is one of my favourite Korean actors, he’s right there with Song Kang-Ho.

    Here’s a list of Korean films that are badass/contain badassery in my opinion:

    A Dirty Carnival
    A Bittersweet Life
    Old Boy (I didn’t like Mr Vengeance or Lady Vengeance)
    Fighter In The Wind (I quite like martial arts movies and this was a kind of martial arts drama)
    The Art Of Fighting – Interesting quasi-badessery
    Rough Cut (Probably my favourite Korean movie I’ve seen so far, and the star So Ji Seob is one of the most charismatic actors I’ve ever seen, no fooling. Just one movie I’ve seen him in and he’s one of my favourite Korean actors)
    Once Upon A Time In High School (A very close second favourite)
    Public Enemy (A hard boiled cop story with very black humour)
    The Good, The Bad, And The Weird
    Memories Of Murder
    R-Point
    City of Violence
    The War Of The Flower
    Crying Fist – starring Choi Min Sik and Ryu Seung Beom, directed by Ryu Seung Wan, this is an embarrassment of riches and it really fulfills all that promise. Badass boxing movie.
    The Chaser is crazy badass but it’s a rough watch.

    I Saw The Devil is excellent, deeply disturbing but I really liked it. I think he’s a remarkable director.

    Korean cinema is kind of my go-to place for badass cinema these days, to agree with Ronin. It’s effing bleak, but it’s great.

    Hey quick question: Do Korean gangster movies remind anyone else here of American gangster movies of the thirties and forties, particular Warner Bros? I feel there are a lot of things in common:
    The hero is usually stark and stylish rather than loud and brash like modern western gangster movies
    The story usually involves really terrible consequences for the life of crime the gangster has lived
    The gangster is cool as all hell without having to be a loudmouth

    Though one difference in Korean gangster movies from pretty much any other genre of gangster movie I can think of: very little use of guns and therefore far more exciting action sequences.

    Korea has an amazing level of action cinema.

  64. Finally saw this last night – awesome film. Loved the use of wide shots and close-ups (such as the moment when Sun-woo decides to chase after the three yoofs in the white car and give them an awsome lesson in respect)

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