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

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Reviews: 74 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


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Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 April 2005 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

A Bittersweet Life  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The narration that opens and closes the film are Buddhist parables. 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 »


President Baek: Life is pain. Didn't you know that?
See more »


Remade as Awarapan (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Entertaining enough, if not quite a Ji-woon Kim masterpiece
20 August 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

After Tale of Two Sisters, Ji-woon Kim's new movie has been eagerly anticipated. In his previous film, the marks of originality, intellectual challenge and superb visual style hailed the possibility of a brave new voice in Korean cinema.

A Bittersweet Life commences with similarly awesome photography and ambiance. The wind in the leaves of a tree - Is it the leaves or the wind that moves? asks the disciple of the master. Neither, he replies, it is your mind and heart that moves. Cut to La Dolce Vita, the swish bar restaurant which we are to discover is also the gangland stronghold of Sun-Woo. A single tree in the centre of the restaurant's sky lounge. The colours red and black, glossy and visually forceful in the lounge - they not only play heavily in the film but make any small deviations stand out. Lushness or delicacy is easily conveyed later in the film by colour, a respite to the bloodshed that will almost swamp us. A tinkling piano (Chopin is used as part of the score) adds a delicate counterpoint to what we know will surely be an overload of violence and mayhem.

Sun-Woo has served his boss, President Kang, faithfully for seven years and is now manager of Dolce Vita as well as Kang's right hand man. Background profits, and gang competition, focuses on innocuous little sidelines like the supply of guns or dancing girls, and which countries these should come from. Kang has a secret lover from the 'normal' world, a cellist who is much younger than he, and whom he suspects of infidelity. Kang entrusts Sun-Woo to sort it out and show no mercy. The warfare that follows goes beyond honour, beyond profit, beyond vengeance, . . . beyond any rational point in fact.

Sun-Woo is the ultimate cool bad guy. Indentured to a world of violence and expert in the use of martial arts, knives and guns, he is almost a humanised Bruce Lee who's woken up on a Tarantino set. It sounds almost too good to be true and it is. The story lines are formulaic and derivative, consisting largely of how to engineer more ingenious punch-ups, torture or revenge posturing. Light humour afforded in the contrast between suave topdogs and bumbling henchmen has been done so many times, and many of the entertaining debacles could have been borrowed from Kill Bill. But entertaining it is, on an undemanding level. Sadly it is not the work of the Master that we might have expected from Two Sisters. "The dream I had can't come true," laments the protagonist, and ironically the dreams Ji-woon Kim's fans may justifiably had don't quite come true in A Bittersweet Life, but this otherwise elegant shoot-em-up is still reasonable 'boys night out' night fare.

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