Bullet Points: A Bittersweet Life
It’s shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads the reviews on our site that I love watching Korean films. They aren’t afraid to do anything. The most famous one among the people that I know is Oldboy and that is a good example of just how wild some of their movies can get. My favorite thing about them is that they’re so unpredictable. Rarely can an American movie make that same guarantee. For this review, I watched the film A Bittersweet Life for the first time. I had heard of it before but hadn’t yet had the pleasure of watching it. Well, here’s what I thought…
The Gist: Sun-woo has worked for his crime-boss Mr. Kang for 7 years and has quickly risen in the ranks and is one of the few men that Mr. Kang trusts. When Mr. Kang gives Sun-woo an assignment to keep tabs on his young girlfriend and to kill her if she’s found to be cheating, Sun-woo finds himself in a dilemma that puts his life in jeopardy. Now Sun-woo must deal with the very men that he has worked alongside for years.
The Cast: Byung-hun Lee plays Sun-woo. American audiences will know Lee from his role as Storm Shadow in the two G.I. Joe movies. If you ask me, he was one of the few bright spots in the first Joe movie and I was happy that they brought him back for the sequel. In A Bittersweet Life, he plays a cold and calculating character whose sudden exposure to actual emotions causes him to lose his normally professional demeanor and to forces him to go against everyone he has ever known. Lee does a pretty good job of showing how difficult it is for his character to break from his normal self. Korean actress Min-ah Shin plays the young lady friend of Mr. Kang’s and the reason for Sun-woo’s betrayal.
Women… am I right??
The Villain: If Sun-woo is the hero of the movie than the villains would be Mr. Kang and President Baek. Beak plays a much creepier role as a rival boss who has a wicked scar on his mouth ala the Joker and really seems to enjoy torture. Kang leaves the dirty work to his underlings and it makes for a perfect showdown for Sun-woo cause it gives him plenty of people to kill. The most gratifying of them being Mun-suk, who was another guy jockeying for Mr. Kang’s approval.
This is never a good sign in a gangster movie.
The Action: There are a couple of hand to hand fights where Byung-hun Lee gets to show off his martial arts skills but the final gun battle and an earlier escape scene are probably the two that are most memorable. Sun-woo is pretty brutally beaten in the entire 2nd and 3rd acts of the film. The aforementioned escape scene is total chaos but my favorite part was when Sun-woo grated a dudes face against a concrete wall like a piece of cheese, leaving a blood streak 6 feet long. There was a surprising lack of hatchets for a Korean movie. I guess I’ve grown accustomed to them and expect them in every Korean action movie from now on. Make it happen!
Flaming stick fight!!
Take it Home:
- Happy ending: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Korean movie with a truly happy ending.
- Favorite quote: “If the hammer is light, the nail will rise back up.”
- Roll Credits: The final scene in which the credits roll is strange. I guess I just didn’t see the significance.
- It ain’t ‘Merica: Getting a gun in South Korea is way more difficult than here in the States. Even for a gangster it was astoundingly difficult.