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A Bittersweet Life (2005)
"Dalkomhan insaeng" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 23,017 users  
Reviews: 73 user | 75 critic

Things go wrong for a high ranking mobster when he doesn't proceed by his boss's orders.


(as Kim Jee-woon)


(as Kim Jee-woon)
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Credited cast:
President Baek
Ku Jin ...
Hae-gon Kim ...
Weapon smuggler
Roe-ha Kim ...
Yeong-cheol Kim ...
Mr. Kang (as Kim Young-Chul)
Gi-yeong Lee ...
Mu-yeong Lee
Eric Moon ...
Gun Dealer's Brother (as Eric)
Dal-su Oh ...
Kwang-rok Oh
Min-a Shin ...
Sang-Jeon Woo


Things go wrong for a high ranking mobster when he doesn't proceed by his boss's orders. Written by marinanic

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


When doing right goes very, very wrong.


Action | Crime | Drama


See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 April 2005 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

A Bittersweet Life  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Korean title "Dalkomhan Insaeng" and the name of the bar "La Dolce Vita" translate to "The Sweet Life". As an ironic touch the International English title is called "A Bittersweet Life". See more »


Toward the end of the film, when Kim Sun-woo is walking down the corridor searching for his former boss, a guard sitting and reading a newspaper gets up to stop him. Kim Sun-woo shoots him but his gun is not pointed at the guard. Rather, it is clearly pointed at the wall where fake blood appears after the shot like a paint gun. See more »


Mu-sung: Apologize, then nothing will happen. "I. Was. Wrong." Three little words. If you say those three words, nothing horrible will happen. "I. Was. Wrong." Just three words.
Sun-woo: Fuck. Off. Asshole.
See more »


Remade as Awarapan (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A slick and stylish revenge drama.
4 December 2006 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

Very stylish and very bloody, A Bittersweet Life may not be the 'classic' that some have hailed it to be, but it is a very good addition to the Asian gangster genre that is well worth watching. Director Kim Jee-Woon has given us a gripping tale of revenge that treads a well worn path, yet does it with enough panache and style for us to forgive the occasional cliché.

Byung-hun Lee plays Sun-woo, cooler-than-cool right-hand man to crime boss Kang, and manager of a swish hotel. Kang asks Sun-woo to keep an eye on his young girlfriend, Hee-Soo, who he suspects is seeing another man; in the event of his suspicions proving to be true, Sun-woo is to kill the girl and her lover.

But when Sun-woo does eventually discover Hee-Soo with another man, he grants the young couple mercy. Angered at Sun-woo disobeying his orders, Kang instructs his men to hunt him down and make him pay for his treachery.

They catch him, and submit him to mental and physical torture but, before they are able to kill him, Sun-woo escapes. An extremely miffed Sun-woo then sets about exacting revenge on those responsible for trying to bump him off.

With a plot that is neither as fresh or as clever as that other recent great Korean revenge drama, Oldboy, Kim Jee Woon's movie owes a lot of its success to lead actor Byung-hun Lee who puts in a confident performance that is the epitome of cool: dressed in a snappy suit, this hard-as-nails gangster is an unflappable fellow, even faced with what seems like certain death.

As one would expect, there is plenty of violence, which slowly escalates until the inevitable final showdown between Sun-woo and Kang. These scenes are handled with aplomb and will go down well with fans of action cinema.

With an ending that is open to interpretation by the viewer, A Bittersweet Life leaves one thinking about the film long after the credits have rolled. Despite its occasional flaws and peculiarities (I still don't understand why the majority of the Korean gangsters don't have guns?), I recommend fans of Asian cinema seek this one out, before the inevitable Hollywood remake rears its ugly head.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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any other korean films like this? yokojakomoko
Great ending scene thingoleros
Hollywood remake is being developed hkchohk-1
Two Scorsese References delaraza8604
heres my take, btw am i just missing something everyone else sees? Serenit-y
Denzel cast to play Sun-Woo in the Remake... cksdayoff
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