Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Korean Thrillers: A Bittersweet Life

Directed by Kim Ji-woon (I Saw The Devil), A Bittersweet Life is “revenge” cinema at its more action-orientated and adrenaline-induced state. The plot follows Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) who works for Kang (Kim Yeong-cheol), a notorious crime boss. Having remained loyal, Sun-woo fails to complete a job in the form of eliminating Kang’s cheating mistress. His subsequent punishment is death, and thus begins Kim’s destructive path of retaliation and violence. Taking a simplistic narrative of betrayal and redemption, Ji-woon firmly centres his story in the wealthy socialites and skyscrapers of Korean’s high society and gangster underworlds. Classy restaurants and fancy cars provide an interesting change from the dingy alleys and houses we’ve seen in The Chaser and Breathless, and gives a distinctive quality. Lee Byung-hun doesn’t quite show a diversity to his character, but is fully capable of fulfilling the fast and technical choreography. For that manner none of the cast are particularly memorable but prove suited to the sophisticated manner of the film. Visually, A Bittersweet Life has the stylings and richness of modern “film-noir” cinema. With it’s emphasis on dark tones and with a particular attention to intricate set designs and lighting, there’s no question that this is a good-looking film. Overall, while it may go beyond the boundaries of realism at points and doesn’t have anything spectacularly unique, A Bittersweet Life is another fine addition to the “Thriller” genre. 

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