A small-time crook, Jae-moon goes after the man who killed his mentor a few years earlier. Jae-moon meets Chi-gook, a retired taekwondo practitioner who becomes his partner and goes to the ... See full summary »
A small-time crook, Jae-moon goes after the man who killed his mentor a few years earlier. Jae-moon meets Chi-gook, a retired taekwondo practitioner who becomes his partner and goes to the killer Dae-sik's hometown. Chi-gook and Jae-moon devise a plan to kill Dae-sik, but as the day of reckoning approaches, Jae-moon meets Dae-sik's mother, Jeom-sim, who reminds him of his hometown. As he sees Jeon-sim worrying over her son, he can't proceed to kill him. However, the encounter of Dae-sik and Jae-moon takes places on the village's field day. Written by
Korean Gangster Drama, dodges the clichés and presents different standpoint.
Director Lee Jeong-bum comes with "Cruel Winter Blues", a remarkable feature debut. He takes characters from a typical Korean gangster film, throws them in an equally typical Gangster plot for vengeance and punishment - and then polarizes the whole thing into the drama. A touch of A Dirty Carnival swings with it, especially at the end, but Lee's work is pleasant and independently within Korean gangster stripe conspicuous definitely different.
The story begins with gangster Jae Mun and his subordinate Chi Guk heading to a small rural town called Bulgyo to lie in wait for a rival boss. Whilst waiting for him to show up, the two gradually adjust to life out in the sticks, with Chi Guk becoming involved with the local Taekwondo class and Jae Mun hesitantly forming a bond with the restaurant-owning mother of their target .As time drags on, the reasons for their mission are revealed, and both begin to question their commitment to the gangster life.
Despite this rather familiar sounding plot, "Cruel Winter Blues" is a difficult beast to pin down, being neither a traditional gangster drama, nor a tale of big city criminals charmed by life in a quirky rural town, nor even the kind of redemptive personal journey which the set up seems to suggest. Probably the best way to describe the film is as a character study which focuses on themes of pride and revenge, but which strangely enough is driven by a mother-son dynamic of all things.
Although this might sound somewhat odd, it works very well, mainly thanks to an interesting set of multilayered characters and relationships which develop in a believable and unpredictable way. Director Lee steadfastly avoids mawkishness throughout, never taking the easy route or throwing in much in the way of cheap sentiment to try and endear nominal protagonist Jae Mun to the viewer, who is consistently depicted as being a pretty unpleasant man, cold, distant and prone to beating people in fits of rage. But since the film basically revolves him, Jae Mun does likely undergo some growth as things progress, though not in the expected fashion, and thankfully there is no forced emotional catharsis or sudden transformation into ill-fitting saintliness.
Technically, the drama is mature; the look is restrained appropriately so that we catch the small town feeling rather than having too much chic. Even better, however, the principal actor: Kyung-gu Sol (Public Enemy) shines as sometimes arrogant, sometimes amusing gangster. Jo Han-seon (Temptations of Wolves) remains somewhat in the background, but has some very compelling scenes. And the old Mun-hee Na (You Are My Sunshine) is the mother of great charm and rustic edges. Great casting, it evaluates the film.
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