Despite their different family backgrounds, four friends grew up together in the wearisome years of the 70s. But as time goes by, each of them takes a different life path. After enrolling ... See full summary »
By "Fist of Fury", Kim Hyun-Soo (Sang-Woo Kwone) addicted to Bruce Lee. Year 1978. Hyun-Soo moved to KangNam, Seoul. Hyun-Soo transferred to JungMoon High, Maljuk Street, Kangnam, Seoul. He... 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 »
Released from prison, Taesik goes to live with an adopted mother. He takes a job and tries to live a quiet life with his new family. His efforts are threatened when a politician seeks to knock the family restaurant down to build a mall.
Based on a true story of 1968 Korean Republic Army plan to assassinate North Korean president Kim Il-Sung. 31 criminals and death row inmates are recruited into secret training on the ... See full summary »
One day, the only son of famous news anchor HAN Kyung-bae, disappears without a trace. Soon, the kidnapper calls the mother demanding a $100,000 ransom. The police assign a veteran ... See full summary »
17 years after the events of first movie, Choi Sung-hoon, Lee Han Dong's son, who grew up in abusive family, and has fallen to life of petty crime, ends up in jail, same one where Lee ... See full summary »
Despite their different family backgrounds, four friends grew up together in the wearisome years of the 70s. But as time goes by, each of them takes a different life path. After enrolling in college, Sang-taek and Joong-ho return to visit Dong-su (Jang Dong-gun) and Joon-suk (Yoo Oh-sung), only to find one of them in jail and the other on drugs. Slowly life takes difficult turns where friends become rivals in the crime world. Written by
When director Kwak Kyung Taek works portions of this film as period pieces, the results are nothing short of spectacular beauty. Scenes depicting 1976 and 1981 alone are worth the price of this film.
Sadly, the broader story of friendship gone awry is bogged down by clichés and melodrama and stereotypical gangster character faux angst. The plot is incidental to the message that Kwak tries to convey with this film: pure and innocent youthful friendship can be undone by the broader, but ultimately less important, adult world concerns of lust, greed and power. Indeed, the plot has been so often done that there is no need to relate it in this review. Suffice it to say that two young friends become, as adults, underworld gangster rivals in Pusan, South Korea, with plenty of that old stand-by, bloodshed, thrown in.
The beauty of "Friend" starts when two friends, Joon Suk and Dong Su, along with two other friends who don't become gangsters, try to examine sex as kids. In an amusing scene, the group confuses the word "menstruation" with "vagina." This leads to some hilarity for viewers later as the sex-crazed kids go about typical early teenage shenanigans.
Similarly, much later in the film, a precious scene unfolds when one of the non-gangsters visits the lair of one of his gangster friends and, while engaging in friendly banter, asks him why he, as a gangster, speaks of philosophy when he is but a "hoodlum." The gangster's henchmen get itchy (a la "The Godfather") and the gangster, instead of killing or torturing his friend, humiliates his own henchmen for overreacting by placing them in compromising positions in a car trunk. "How dare you suspect my friend and guest," he spits at his erstwhile protectors.
Such portrayals of true friendship predominate until the last quarter of the film when the rivalry between the two former friends, the gangsters, erupts into stereotypical over-the-top violence reminiscent of DePalma and Pacino. And while these latter scenes are apparently meant to provide the purpose and meaning of "Friend," they come off as clichéd shoot-em-ups, filled with ho-hum dialogue and predictably "tense" scenes that come up disappointing.
Still, Kwak displays instances of brilliance, such as when he portrays the rebellious underworld of South Korea in 1981 under Chun Doo Hwan's military dictatorship. Women smoking cigarettes was taboo even when I visited the country more than a decade later. Kwak is able to depict subtle scenes of rebellion in a subtle manner, and these are the gems of the film that resonate: A stunning performance by a female rock band. A running away scene with Robert Palmer's "Bad Case of Loving You" blaring in the soundtrack. A "West Side Story" type brawl in a theater while a government propaganda newsreel runs in the background. Shades of "Quadrophenia" and "Romper Stomper" prevail throughout the early half of the film, and when they do, its scenes are effectively cut with enough humorous interludes that a viewer does not want the film to progress into the "epic saga" that it eventually tries, with limited success, to become.
Former friends Joon Suk and Dong Su become reluctant adversaries and Kwak attempts to use this setting as a vehicle for a commentary on friendship. It works if your idea of friendship is apologizing to your best friend as he dies at your hand, or if confessing to that murder to face a certain death penalty qualifies as redemption. After a lot of violence and prison-cell soul-searching, the film concludes with a sentimental look back at the halcyon days of the friendly boys' respective childhoods. In this reviewer's opinion, it doesn't work. What does work is Kwak's initial representation of the boys' coming of age. If he had stayed there, this film could have been a lovely revelry in the ridiculous and absurd world of happily ignorant boyhood.
Instead, Kwak tries for a home run when all the friends really need is a base hit.
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