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|Index||56 reviews in total|
This is an extremely good film - highly recommended. It will not be to
everyone's taste, but if you are not afraid of thinking during a film
then you should find plenty to take away from this one.
Bad Guy is a film based on the central premise of a relationship built between what is effectively a hostage-taker and his hostage. What transpires is a stream of abuses, power-shifts, emotional turmoil, love, hate, violence, sex, and almost every other aspect of life. This is an extremely original story, well told, with fascinating characters that are extremely human... both the good and bad sides of humanity.
The production values are very high, great acting, direction, cinematography, script, music, everything is top notch.
Typically, Korean films are very much based in real characters, social issues, and have an earthy approach that humanises their films beyond those of most countries. Bad Guy is no exception... while it is violent, confrontational, and decidedly dark, it bristles with underlying emotion and shows life without the rose coloured glasses.
The characters are at times extremely emotional, and at others almost entirely emotionally void as they struggle constantly to keep their balance in circumstances that are spiraling around them.
This is not an 'easy' film, in that it does not hand feed the viewer, there are no 'Jaws' style music queues to let you know when to be scared. You will need to work out how to feel for yourself with this one, which is fairly rare in this day and age.
As said earlier, this movie is not for everyone, however if the concept sounds like something that interests you, then you should enjoy this film. If on the other hand you don't like the idea of watching a film based on the idea of a man forcing a woman into a life of sexual servitude, then stay well away from this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is what might be called postmodern naturalism. Director Ki-duk Kim
tells a brutal story without comment and without mercy. He reminds us
of some human truths that will make some viewers uncomfortable, and he
First, two things: Spoilers to come, so if you haven't seen this movie you might want to stop reading now.
Second, if you've seen the movie only once and are scratching your head, you're not alone.
Here's what happens: Han-ki (Jae-hyeon Jo), a street tough pimp walking along in a South Korean city spies this very pretty and privileged college girl, Sun-hwa (Won Seo), sitting on a bench waiting for her boyfriend. The girl is everything Han-ki desires. He sits down next to her. She pretends not to notice him while she talks on her cell phone to her boyfriend. When she does deign to notice him (and his desire for her) she shirks back in horror at his dirty, lower-class presumption and gets up. Her boyfriend arrives while she throws ugly glances at Han-ki. Han-ki can't take it anymore and grabs her and forcefully kisses her as the boyfriend beats him about the head. Some soldiers arrive on the scene and beat the tar out of Han-ki. As a parting gesture, pretty girl spits on Han-ki as he is held by the soldiers.
That's "the setup." It's the kind of setup that cries out for revenge or at least a comeuppance, which is what I expected. Or perhaps pretty college girl and the bad guy will find true love and overcome their social differences. What actually happens is beyond expectation in a way that is likely to stun and totally engage the viewer.
Pretty girl is at a book store. She compromises herself (in the viewer's eyes) by tearing a page out of an art book and putting it in her purse. This can be seen as the fatal moral flaw that leads to her degeneration. Han-ki sees this. (He has been following her.) Near her on the book display is a fat wallet. Pretty college girl grabs it, looks both ways, and puts it in her purse. This is the fatal moral flaw leading to entrapment and a descent into hell. She hurries to the bathroom and in the stall opens the wallet and takes out the money. Meanwhile the guy who lost the wallet is told (presumably by the bad guy) that she has the wallet and is in the bathroom. By the time he gets there she is gone. He chases after her and finally catches her. He roughs her up, calls her a pickpocket, and then forces her to go to a loan shark and sign an agreement (with her body as collateral) for money that he says was in the wallet.
This might be called "the turn" as the setup takes on a startling twist.
Next Sun-hwa is forced into prostitution by Han-ki. She makes some feeble attempts to get away, but mysteriously has nowhere to go it seems, and anyway is too afraid to run. She realizes that she is going to lose her 21-year-old virginity so she begs her captors to let her lose it to her boyfriend. Han-ki and his fellow thugs mysteriously oblige. However, the boyfriend is confused and doesn't get the job done. They pull him out of the car, slap him around, dump him, and Sun-hwa is back at the showcase on the street. Through a two-way mirror Han-ki watches her lose her virginity to a forceful client.
Question number one: why doesn't Han-ki ever speak? Question number two: why does he watch her behind the two-way mirror instead of taking her himself? The answer comes later in the film when we do hear him speak for the first time. His voice is a high shriek. Guess what his unique problem is.
And then comes the resolution. Yes, this is a love story of sorts and yes they do fall in love in a way that is debased and seemingly fated. He's a pimp and she's now a prostitute. This works out since he is able to vicariously experience her sexually and she is able to thereby serve the man she loves. And together they can make a living.
There is also a supernatural element in the film that suggests that the story is part wish-fulfillment fantasy by Han-ki. His ability to beat up the other guys and survive knife wounds fairly begs credulity. During the course of the film he loses enough blood to supply a small hospital. And the scene where both he and Sun-hwa appear together on the beach as if by magic is more mystical than realistic.
Director Ki-duk Kim's message seems to be that animal passion will win out in the end, and that humans are, despite the facades they put on, just animals doing animal-like things in the human jungle, and deliverance comes only when one realizes his or her nature and gives into it. Ki-duk Kim makes us identify with the bad guy and feel that he and pretty girl are no worse or no better than anyone else.
In short I found this movie disturbing like something from, say, novelist Cormac McCarthy. I am thinking especially of his novel, "Child of God." That title is ironic in the sense that his anti-heroic protagonist really is, whatever we may say or think, or however bestial his behavior, a child of God, while Ki-duk Kim's title "Bad Guy" ("Nabbeun namja") is also ironic in the sense that Han-ki is by societal standards certainly a bad guy, but by naturalistic (or cosmic) standards no better or worse than the pretty college girl.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
"Bad Guy (Nabbeun namja)" is an earlier film of Ki-duk Kim that is
probably being released now in the U.S. due to the success of "Spring,
Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo
bom)," but fans of that visually entrancing parable should be warned
how very different this exploration of the depths of human nature is.
The style has some similarity in that there is no exposition and we have to connect images that tell a tale of two very different people over time. Context is everything as voyeurism keeps repeating along a sexual spectrum of men and women together -- to romantic or erotic or degrading or lustful or violent, full of obsession or love or hate or longing or disgust, whether in prostitution, a relationship, or rape.
A key context is emotions and degrees, whether by the man or woman, or mutual, or drained of feeling such that I'm not sure love has any meaning in this film. There's a recurring use of Egon Schiele's erotic art to make some kind of comparative point about a continuum of sexual images and their effect on the viewer.
The titular character is reminiscent of Quasimodo of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" fixating on Esmeralda if he were a psychopathic pimp in, I presume, Seoul's lurid red light district and played by the charismatic Jae-hyeon Jo, like an apolitical "Romper Stomper." I did get a little lost where he fit into the hierarchy of the yakuza-like gangster organization that controls the district, how much authority he has, and who was on top of whom to interpret their obsessions. Some of the encounters we see are presumably his limited fantasies as he miraculously recovers from various violently noble efforts to protect and reach out to the object of his affection that reminded me of the ambiguous ending of Jane Campion's "The Piano."
The film explores some of the same territory as the work of Catherine Breillat, but the context seems uneasily different when I'm the only woman in the theater and the director is male, perhaps because the central woman is always an object, even as she pitifully adapts to her various degradations, and even resists being freed from them. All the women in the film treat each other like the men treat them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film shortly after seeing the same director's The Isle and
was much more affected by this production, although they are both
striking works. Like the earlier film, Bad Guy is a tale of obsession
between lovers who exist on the edge of human relations, and features
some disturbing scenes. There's a sado-masochistic thread common in
those Ki-duk Kim's films I have seen which some viewers will,
understandably, find controversial. The major characters are isolated,
one is tempted to say insulated, from humanity, and develop their own
fiercely peculiar interactions. There's the exploited lake girl (also a
whore) who tends the pontoon huts in The Isle, miles from civilisation,
and the murderer who seeks his hideout on the water. There's the
student held as prostitute, imprisoned in her booth, and the largely
mute brothel thug who falls for her, frequently stuck admiringly behind
his viewing glass. These are people apart from the rest of the world by
reason of misfortune or status, who hold our attention as they
eventually come together.
Unlike the animal cruelty and fish hook fetishism exhibited in The Isle, Bad Guy's principal talking point lies in the changing relationship between an unwilling whore and her abductors. Bad Guy's victim is 'hooked' against her will just as securely as are the fish in The Isle. Inveigled into prostitution after a tough guy develops a romantic fixation on her in the street, she gradually comes to accept her new condition in life, the advances of her captor and even grows to 'like' being in the arms of her customers. I use inverted commas for this word as the idea that a woman can gradually enjoy her forced acquiescence into moral degradation, and enter into a voluntary relationship with a tormentor, is debatable to say the least.
There's a scene in the film which neatly describes the dilemma. The thug spends his first night with his love, an unconsummated encounter after which she sleeps on the floor beside him. She has been intimidated, then reassured, he ardent yet constrained by his feelings. First thing next morning he rises, studies her room, and spends a moment on straightening a nail in her wall. Through his one way mirror set in the wall, he has previously seen her at her most pathetic trying, unsuccessfully, to hang up a garment. Clearly this brief DIY is a moment of loving thought, out of place in any black and white view of their peculiar relationship. In fact Bad Guy is full of moments of tenderness, aided greatly by the plaintive melody of the score and the intense chemistry between the two leads. One superbly staged scene is where the two kiss through the one-way glass, she unaware of his secret response to her longing, at least until his lighter flame belatedly flickers his visage into view later. Another is as she resignedly dons a trashy wig and applies thick lipstick. He looks on again in secret, aghast at her depression, unable or unwilling - to interfere. Far from being a vicious peeping tom, by this stage he is practically a protector, transfixed by an obsession, as a couple of times he even dashes in to rescue her from unwanted advances. Fresh from a brutal world, the mute is not violent to his ward, nor does he rape her, and by the end of the film his possession is less physical than it is emotional. Add to this on the one occasion he speaks the sudden sound of his high pitched voice, (vocal chords presumably damaged by a conspicuous throat injury) so aptly suggestive of a eunuch's speech, and the nature of his character can be seen quite differently.
Outside of this central relationship, one might nit-pick at less than satisfactory plot points. How the thug recovers so abruptly from life-threatening wounds for instance, or his spell in prison, during which legal processes seems to take no time at all (by reference to an extended fantasy is the usual answer, an occurrence which further undermines the allegations of misogyny). Or the girl's prompt location of the missing parts of the photograph, itself symbolic of her fractured relationships, beneath a considerable expanse of anonymous sand at the beach, and so on. (Ki-duk Kim's use of the shore line as an emotional 'no-man's zone' incidentally reminds one of the importance of such moments in Takeshi Kitano's oeuvre.) The overall impression however is of quite an achievement, and one which is perhaps more mature about the unpredictable nature of love and attraction than the director has been earlier. In short, Bad Guy is no bad film, and despite some misgivings about the moral premise of the piece, is well worth seeing.
This is a very entertaining film. It contains sex and violence.(Yes that's what I said).The themes are very dark and at the same time this is a very loving film.It is certainly a challenging film and strangely being set in South Korea has many European sensibilities.If you think the world can be explained in terms of black and white then this is not an easy film. However if you understand that the world you live in has shades of grey then here is a multi coloured chunk to digest.I liked the central characters and found them very believable.This film shows particular skill in having very rounded supporting roles. The lives of these people even when violent or mundane and self destructive are very easy to comprehend.It is the first film I have seen by this director and it will definitely not be the last.
This is not the best of movies, but I rank it high because it did it
for me. Though the characters are not really presented to the viewer,
they are developed through the movie by showing their actions. The plot
is not really important here, and people that cling to whatever
feminist or political agendas when discussing a movie are wasting
everybody's time. It reminds me of an old Italian movie, I can't
remember the name or actors because I've seen it when I was a kid, with
a mafia boss that falls in love with a woman, kidnaps her but wants to
charms her, rather that rape her. This is also about a generally
violent man who's attention is captured by a beautiful girl and he also
wants access to her soul, rather than her body.
The movie is full of contrasts and paradoxes, but what sets it apart is the atmosphere (I had my heart pumping a good part of the movie, without it being an action movie or anything) and the subtle way it reveals the deep needs of every character.
Its bad part, though, is that close to the end you keep expecting the movie to end and it doesn't. The slow pace of the movie doesn't help either, so a feeling of "is it over yet?" can easily set in.
I liked it, I recommend it to people who have the mood to see a psychological Asian movie about gangsters, prostitutes and the power of love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I won't profess to be articulate writing comments about movies (in fact
this is my first one on this site), but I found this film wholly
unsatisfying and disappointing to watch.
The first 20 minutes or so actually promised a lot and I was intrigued. The central protagonist had a peculiar lack of lines and the college girls venomous retort after his first unwanted advance made you wonder who was really the bad guy.
However this all started to change in the contrived and unconvincing way in which she was coerced into prostitution. She lost her backbone, she spent more time sobbing and several inexplicable plot holes creep into the story. An unconvincing time distortion (for want of better words) works it's way into the story that I felt took away from the plot instead of adding depth to it. The writer may have been trying to be metaphorical, but in the context of the rest of the film, it was just out of place. And finally, the central characters silence I believe hamstrings the movie, unlike in a Kevin Smith movie where when Silent Bob speaks, actually has something profound to say.
By the end of the movie, I could not care for either the girl or the main character and the ending neither seemed appropriate nor inappropriate for them. I simply didn't care for them... let alone despise them.
This is one of my top 10 favorite films. The film has a fair amount of
violence and some "uncomfortable" scenes, but you never feel that any
scene is gratuitous. Each moment is part of the evolution of what it
truly means to submit - to love - unconditionally. There is that moment
in the film when the main actress finally allows herself to be led --
astray. A moment that may be hard for some to accept. Some have called
Bad Guy misogynistic. But I think Bad Guy is quite the opposite. You
might as well call the film "Breaking the waves" misogynistic. Kim
Ki-Duk understands that to show a female character realistically you
must be prepared to show her in all her forms, even the ones that we as
women may be ashamed to admit to. What woman hasn't done something
stupid and regretful for some man? How far are you willing to bend
before you break to another's will for .... Love or just the
possibility of love. The film Bad Guy is only a matter of degrees. You
may think that as a woman you would never make the choices Sun-hwa
makes in the film. But I say "Don't ever say never... because the first
rule you will break will be your own"... But their is a certain amount
of culpability that is shared between Han-ki and Sun-hwa in the film. A
demand to lead and a willingness to be led are all that are required.
In the end this film is a love story. An unconditional love that requires you to love not in spite of your faults and weakness but because of them. Jae-hyeon Jo's performance is one of the most mesmerizing every captured on celluloid. And almost done completely without dialog. Which I didn't notice until the 3rd time in a row when I had first watched the film. It doesn't hurt that he is super sexy and easy on the eyes too. ;) The film is further enhanced by an exquisite soundtrack. Etta Scollo's "i tuoi fiori" may have been selected by chance but you would never have noticed. The film's climax is like watching a hot pan of oil just before it falls off the edge of the stove. That timeless moment of indecision - when the move to rescue becomes more dangerous than doing nothing at all.
Beauty and the Beast was an original tale written by a French author in
1756 and is considered the gold standard for "unusual" love stories.
(The best movie version of the original story was also done by a French film-maker and reviewed here by this writer -- La Belle et La Bete) I am guessing that if you go back far enough you will find many versions of equally twisted love stories through history, because love at its core is not always the stuff of Valentine cards.
This extraordinary film is about love, it is also about justice, it is also about impulse control.
It also gives a whole meaning to the term "unrequited love." I recommend it but suggest you leave your expectations at the door. Even the publicists for the film seem to have got it wrong -- the artwork for the DVD suggest a seamy sex movie and in fact that approach is completely wrong.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Ki-duk Kim has done it again. With his beautiful human stories
like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and 3-Iron, he has come up with a
very human story of a different sort.
One of the most incredible and searing performances I have seen in years by Jae-hyeon Jo, as Han-ki, the Bad Guy, and almost totally wordless. His eyes tell as much about the way he is feeling as any words can. The raw human emotions are amazing. Watching Sun-hwa go from the most innocent girl into the call girl that she becomes makes your heart break but then watching how she begins to feel about the Bad Guy at the end tempers this a little. And that ending, with that traveling den of iniquity makes you feel both sorry for the two and at the same time you feel that these two people have found something that they have been looking for. Once again an Asian film maker ends a film realistically unlike American film makers who always go for the happy ending which would have ruined this story. I do hope that no American film maker decides to remake this film
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