A Bittersweet Life (18)Thursday 19 Jan 2006
Duration: 0 minutes
Directed by Ji-woon Kim, starring Byung-hun Lee, Yeong-cheol Kim, Min-a Shin and Jeong-min Hwang.
Sun Woo (Lee) is a troubled soul. He has long been the faithful servant to Boss Kang (Kim), acting as an enforcer at his hotel and ensuring that Kang can conduct his business with as much ease as possible.
Things become complicated for Sun Woo when he gets assigned to ensure that Boss Kang's young girlfriend, Hee Soo (Shin), remains faithful while he is away on a business trip. The Boss suspects that she has a young male lover and orders Sun Woo to delve out fitting punishment if his suspicions are confirmed.
Sun Woo, who has professed to never being in love, unwittingly develops an affection for the girl and finds it impossible to punish her for being unfaithful to Boss Kang. As an act of compassion he allows her, and her partner, to live if they promise never to see each other again.
This simple gesture turns his life upside down as his former allies and enemies seek to end his life for once and for all. Kang is mainly concerned with gaining retribution for losing all that is dear to him in his life.
'A Bittersweet Life' will draw comparisons to the many other Tarantino-influenced movies that keep finding their way onto the shelves of your local video shop, but seem to have been skipped over completely for a nationwide release. However, this offers much more than a violence-fest garnished with deep dialogue.
Director Ji-woon Kim really gets inside the head of anti-hero Sun Woo. He uses food, the weather and music to accentuate his emotions and portray the despair that he is experiencing. When life is good he eats well with classical music in the background, while gazing at the beautiful Hee Soo. When life is not going so well - for example, when a group of gangsters are trying to bury him alive - there is torrential rain and we have not seen him stuffing his face for almost 20 minutes.
What really sets the movie apart from others of the same genre is the comedy element. Though this is not a buddy movie there is a glut of one-liners that would not find themselves out of place in a 'Die Hard' or 'Lethal Weapon' tribute. Be prepared for sporadic outbursts from the entire audience at what might seem like the most inappropriate moment.
'A Bittersweet Life' is a thoroughly enjoyable example of how directors coming under the influence of Mr Tarantino may use their powers for the good of movies rather than hoping that concentrating on the violent and graphic elements of his work will result in artistic credibility.