Bad Guy (2001) Poster

(2001)

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8/10
Disturbing and then some
Dennis Littrell16 May 2006
Warning: 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 invites controversy.

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!)
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10/10
Extremely good film
sain1118 April 2005
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.
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8/10
Despite misgivings, a powerful and excellent film
FilmFlaneur30 May 2003
Warning: 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.
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7/10
If Quasimodo and Esmeralda Were in Seoul's Red Light District Now
noralee25 February 2005
"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.
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8/10
astonishing riff on Beauty and the Beast
A_Different_Drummer3 November 2015
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.

Amazing.
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8/10
A very different movie on love and related emotions
rhitwick28 March 2010
Another gem from Kim-Ki-Duk, very complex movie in terms of concept and screenplay. Even hard to digest, what is right, what is wrong...lines are blurred.

You'd like to hate the character of Han-Ki very much but you'll be forced to like him. Evoked a mixture of emotions in me...its brutal in its sense, sensual in its sense...a totally different grammar for emotions...

Once again, Kim-Ki-Duk beautifully used silence in the movie and the main character (as usual??) is silent for major part of the movie. This is not everyone's cup-of-tea, so beware if you are thinking of watching it...you may find it bad
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10/10
Bad guy is exquisite and Jae-hyeon Jo's performance is hypnotic.
Antoniaep12 April 2008
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.
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4/10
Disappointing
colm_mcfadden6 June 2007
Warning: 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.
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10/10
Sex,violence,obsession,prostitution,love,life,pure cinema
losriley31 July 2005
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.
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7/10
Another success for Ki-duk Kim
sfdavide13 September 2005
Warning: 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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8/10
Love can make a man insane.
siderite19 August 2005
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.
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8/10
Probably Kim Ki-Duk's best film
bastard wisher19 July 2006
With the work of South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk, the viewer has to accept some very fundamental "flaws" that inherently seem to be a part of his work in a practical sense. The production values are always cheap, the soundtrack music is always tacky, the acting is never more than at the most basic level, there are continuity errors... in a word, his films always seem low budget and as if everything were shot in one take. Also he has almost an insistence on breaching realism and lapsing into his own vague allegory. His characters never follow any kind of real internal logic, but rather act according to the scenario he conceives. All of these factors amount to the reason I don't think I will ever be able to consider any of his films true masterpieces.

That said, in return for accepting these inherent flaws, the viewer is rewarded with a candid, unadulterated look into the creative mind of a very interesting person. Kim Ki-Duk's vision is relentlessly idiosyncratic, but very consistent and pure. Watching his films, you gain direct access into his thoughts. This is not film-making by committee, this is "auteurism" in the truest sense. That in and of itself is such a rarity that his films are worth seeing for this reason alone. And this film, "Bad Guy", is probably the purest, most definitive example of Kim Ki-Duk's vision. All the preoccupations that manifest in his other work are here: The mute, inexpressive protagonist, the seeming obsession with prostitution and the degradation of women in general, and also the director's tendency to eventually lead his characters into an incomprehensible fantasy world. Whether or not the viewer is willing to accept these illogical flights of fancy is purely a matter of taste, but personally i find his work fascinating solely because it is so stubbornly idiosyncratic and fueled by a remarkably pure sense of creative expression.
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8/10
Silent Voyeur
the-pessimist31 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent movie. Just not to be confused with the 1937 Hollywood epic! The title itself is quite interesting, in that the film is about the girl, yet the title is about the "guy". What's more interesting is that, 'that' very the lead actor doesn't say a single word for at least 90mins if I recall correctly, and when he does, he sounds like a six year old boy. Seo Won (female lead), has given an excellent performance, and really shows the viewers what it's like being a Korean prostitute.

This film is about voyeurism without a shadow of a doubt. The two-way mirror isn't just some sort of tangible metaphor or anything of the sort. However, it has to be said, if there is anything which comes close to describing the topic of the film, it will be the blossoming of a disturbing relationship, and love, between two personalities that would have had no chance of being together if it weren't for the girl's financial situation.

On the whole, another brilliant Korean flick, of which there are many coming into mainstream cinemas in the UK now.
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1/10
Life in the brothel, vs Disney fantasy = No
Serenit-y4 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Due to boredom one night and the encouragement of having watched a string of quite interesting though often unusual Korean films i found myself a fan of Korean entertainment.

Until i came across this, Lets start with the plot Basically you have a perhaps bright college student with a potential future, a "Bad boy" in all sense of the word...literally, and a brothel. The young girl unfortunately for her steals some money from a man (Which turns out to be a setup by the main character" and is forced to pay it off, Not by getting a loan from the bank, family, friends like a normal woman, but by prostitution.

Hence beginning a "tale of life at the brothel". Basically, the skeleton of the film from here on end is this, She gets raped, over and over, and over, tries to escape the brothel, The "Main Character" catches her, brings her back to the brothel so she can get raped some more by random horny guys, while he watches from the other side of a glass, Why? heres the twist - He's in love with her, and telling her simply wouldn't have done.

As the film literally drags on, with the constant pounding of the girls miseries it gets to the point where when he gets into a fight, or gets stabbed, which as it turns out he does, you smile and think to yourself "Finally it ends! he got what he deserved in the end, Go Karma", sadly yet humorously He stands up, and shrugs it off, literally just walking away with no medical assistance what so ever.

He's fairytale reality does not end there, he somehow as a crown to all he's crimes, and violent nature ends up getting the girl whose life he inherently destroys throughout the length of the movie to reprocate he's love, and so concluding this "Reality of how life in the directors underworld is like" they walk of into the sunset.

From this fiasco of an imitation of life in an "Underworld society" we learn that If you want a woman to love you, fellows flowers and candy simply won't do.

I had to watch Daisy, to get the bad taste of this film out of my mind. It's sad to see a film like this get rated higher than a 3.1, for the only truth; If the Male leads character depicted in the movie was in fact brought before the public in a real life scenario, we'd gather our pitch forks, and throw him to the jury yelling the sweet sounds of life imprisonment. Yet he's portrayed behind the lens of a camera and suddenly,...He's simply misunderstood.
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7/10
The Way To A Girl's Heart? Turn Her Into A Hooker...
EVOL66629 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I don't watch a lot of newer, more "mainstream" Asian films, personally preferring 70s era pinku material, or some of the newer "extreme" gore films - but I did enjoy BAD GUY on most levels. It's definitely different from some of the hyper-kinetic action films, or the "scary little girl with long black hair" type films that have overflowed the market recently. This film is a drama about love, obsession, and despair. Pretty strong stuff that is pulled off quite well - for the most part...

I thug and a college girl have a heated exchange that leads to the guy obsessively following her. When he feels that he can't get to her any other way, he sets her up to be caught stealing, and she has to take a loan from some shady loan sharks to pay back the debt. Unable to do so - she is coerced into prostitution by a group that is run by the thug and his boys. She eventually finds out that he was behind her "situation" and obviously doesn't take to kindly to it - the rest of the film is pretty much a love/hate struggle between the two, as well as with one of the other members of the gang who is in love with the hooker as well...

There's quite a bit more going on in BAD GUY than the above summary - but I prefer to keep things kinda short. The transformation of the young woman from innocent college-student to street-whore is sad and believable. The subject-matter is handled seriously and competently and it's easy to relate to her pain and hopelessness. The main issue I had with the film, was the fact that many things went unexplained and seemed that it was left to the audience to assume certain things that I felt could have been expanded on better. I don't know exactly how to explain this - you'll have to watch it and see for yourself. I also felt the ending was a bit anti-climactic, and certain parts of the film felt kind of dull and redundant. Regardless, BAD GUY is still a strong film if you're in the mood for a serious drama, but want something different then the regular U.S. theatrical garbage that's out there...7.5/10
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4/10
What was the point?
Negara24 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a disappointment compared to Kiduk's other movies. It's hard to relate to the subject at all. The guy decides to ruin this girl , at the same time he has fallen for this girl. At the same time the girl falls for him in a weird way so they end up mobile pimping and hooking together?! Why did the man suspect the girl of stealing his wallet? Why did the girl accept to be indebted like that owing her body? Didn't the girl have anyone to turn to? What happened to the boyfriend? This movie contains these and many many other logical black holes not to mention the fact that the acting of anyone but the "bad Guy" is mediocre. The subject and the turn out of the events are too far-fetched to be believable.
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4/10
Beauty Meets the Beast
nycritic4 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
What the power of love can do. The Marquis de Sade couldn't be smiling from ear to ear if he could have access to this movie, see it from start to finish, rewind, see it again, ad nauseum. It isn't as though this couldn't have been penned by him -- the Sadean delicacy is all over the place, demanding to be seen, savored, and digested. Because of course, Our Heroine, completely minding her own business, crosses paths with The Villain (who has a perpetual scowl on his face to rub it in and reveals himself to be impermeable to injuries and holds quite a laughable surprise much later in the movie) who shows his appreciation for her by planting a big, sloppy one on her alabaster face. In public. Where everyone can see. She, predictably, doesn't quite reciprocate and even demands an apology, and her boyfriend reveals himself to be a flaming eunuch in disguise, so what happens next? She gets framed for a petty act of theft. It seems that laws "out there" function at a different level than in our country because she gets thrown into a brothel and is forced to become meat for the asking. All the time, The Villain just watches and watches and watches a bit more, for amusement, behind a mirror. And is such, this tale of exploitation seems to indicate she will be there until she is too old to care -- and where are her parents who could quite easily bail her out of her predicament? What universe is this story taking place in? -- when the story decides it wants to take us, the hapless viewers, into a Different Place and reveal what it's really trying to tell us all along: that Love can actually flourish with the person who's been responsible for your debasement. And why not?
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9/10
A reality few people want to believe ...
kenneth_hopf26 February 2007
This film could probably not have been made in the US without severely damaging the reputation of the producer on the grounds of political incorrectness. Further, my impression is that practically no reviewers recognize what is really going on here. It is about the psychological transformation of a very conservative, and somewhat shy woman, into what in the US we would hypocritically call a slut, i.e., a woman who wants sex and is not averse to using it to make a living as only a woman can. The movie also highlights a key fact about female psychology: nice guys come in last. Of course, women universally deny this, but it is nonetheless true. The only nice guy in the movie, the woman's former boyfriend, doesn't even get sex, he just gets beaten up. Further, the Bad Guy, the guy who forces this woman into prostitution, is in the end precisely the guy she chooses to be with! Sex, which was initially foisted upon a woman who resisted ferociously, effects a transformation. The woman who exists at the beginning of the movie is completely gone at the end, and it is the kind of transformation that can happen only to a woman. The politically correct and highly Christianized society of the West, especially in the US, does not like to acknowledge that women have it in them to change in the manner depicted in the film. It is too threatening to their world view. And that is the greatness of this film: it's honesty about men and women, and an in-your-face courage to face the truth. The story is not perfect, but it is the only one I know of that has the courage to state the truth about these things, and on the whole it's merits greatly outweigh it's flaws. See this movie if you want enlightenment, but be prepared to have your boat rocked if you're the kind of person who prefers to live in a fantasy world of niceness and Christian piety.
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Did the ending feel contrived to you?
candace-910 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Does anyone else feel like Bad Guy started out strong, but just sort of petered out by the end? It's like the screenplay writer had a great concept for a plot, but couldn't figure out an ending that really worked. Starting out the characters intrigued me, but then it started to become repetitive. For example, the slapping, shoving, and hitting seemed really random and without much purpose other than giving the movie more action. In fact, a lot of things that happened around the middle and end really didn't do much to take the movie anywhere.

The very end seemed a bit contrived. Many of the other posters here seem to find some deep meaning in the end; but it feels like it was an afterthought in the script. I just don't think he did a good job of ending the film.

I'll watch the director's commentary tomorrow; we'll see if he changes my mind.
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10/10
very different
skacoree25 May 2002
if you are tired of watching Hollywood movies which are pretty much always the same thing over and over then you should try this, it's a very unique story... maybe will be hard to understand because of the differences from the Asian culture, but I believe even for them this movie was unique... I don't even want to tell you the story, just watch it yourself, very entertaining.
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7/10
Not Kim's finest, but...
markbeardslee24 February 2007
In Seoul, and in every other major South Korean city, there are red light districts. Few local folks will admit to their existence. But Kim Ki Duk does. And he does even more. He shows us how they work, how innocent young women get trapped by the "business," how a sense of helplessness descends upon the prostitutes, and how painfully unwelcome and irrelevant their boyfriends, their husbands, their families, become.

To make a film with these themes central may not seem like a winning decision. However, this is award-winning director Kim's territory, and he does with the subject matter what he will. No, it's not pretty, so don't expect it to be. No, it doesn't end up with everything working out happily, because life rarely does, so don't expect that either. No, there is no fine, pat conclusion, because Kim knows better.

I noticed that this film contains bits of celluloid that was picked up off the cutting room floor after Kim's renowned "3-Iron" was made. Expect some unexpected scenes in this regard. Unfortunately, the film is ugly from the beginning, with an innocent young woman (the magnificent actress and Kim favorite Seo Won), taken into prostitution against her will through unlikely circumstance. She is not a willing prostitute and she rebels throughout the plot, much to her dismay. But Kim is so adept at this. Ugliness becomes beautiful, noise turns to stillness, the guilty transform to innocence and the truly innocent remain so. I gasp at such awesome presentation. From Kim, we expect this. Still, he can overdo it. Why, I ask, does Kim always place a woman in mortal peril? Is this a must for his stories, his fables? If so, what is he trying to teach us? Certainly, I hope, more than the fact that "sexploitation" exists in his home country.

"Bad Guy" is a beautiful movie, but I only grant it 7 of 10 because Kim has apparently become obsessed with sexual violence (reference "The Isle," "Coast Guard" and "Address Unknown"). Also, there is just too much emphasis placed on predictable fight scenes. Sure, such scenes can serve a purpose, but by 2002, Kim should know he doesn't need to resort to the horrific presentations he makes them. I appreciate what he is trying to accomplish: a counterpoint to his truly beautiful scenes. But do we really need to be hit over the head with sexual brutality again and again? Perhaps his own culture does and, like what Mean Streets and Taxi Driver offered America in the 70's, Kim is trying to do something similar for South Korean society in the 2000 oughts. We can but hope.

Kim takes risks in showing the world the dark underbelly of contemporary Korean culture. He is to be commended for that. But he is capable of presenting so much more, and that is precisely what this film lacks. Kim needs to stop using shock as his stock in trade, and return to his more sublime talents, such as presenting unlikely heroes and heroines. Most of his viewers are, I am sure, quite over blatant scenes of sex and violence. "We get it, Mr. Kim, thank you, offer us something more. We know you can. Make those scenes MEAN something. That is what made you attractive in the first place; do not forget it."

Quickly, as an aside, if anyone supposes, simply because of the similarity of titles, that "Bad Guy" is similar to "Old Boy" by Park Chan Wook, forget it. These two films are nothing alike, except that they are both good.

This film is just good (not great) and should be received by Kim Ki Duk fans with mixed reactions.
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Confusing but interesting
davidread19863 March 2014
I won't lie, this movie has me conflicted but it does show an amazing amount of portrayal of either what is real or what could be real.

The confusion that I'm dealing with isn't so much what is right or wrong but is how to deal with this and to process it emotionally.

What would I do if I were thrust into a situation like this where I lost a little bit of myself at a time? Would I sink into a depression or would I become worse? Would I even surpass those who got me into that state? I don't know but this movie definitely was a hard one. At this point, I can't say whether or not it was worth watching but it has significantly impacted me.
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5/10
Stockholm in Seoul?
Amit Aishwarya Jogi10 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If nothing else, this film will make you think- or to be more precise, rethink everything you thought you knew about what is right and wrong about love. Of course, the plot isn't very credible, and the drift into surrealism- that bit about the missing pieces of photos- merely adds to the moral confusion.

The whole idea of a college-going girl in a fairly developed society like South Korea suddenly being blackmailed into prostitution because she is caught pick-pocketing is well, preposterous- to say the least. Surely, there are other- less violent- options for someone in her situation? Unless of course she doesn't want to be rescued. OK, I guess that's the whole point of the film: the age-old Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim does eventually fall in love with the victimizer. But the keyword is eventually...

Still, it has a rawness to it, which some viewers- like this one- might occasionally find tedious.
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5/10
Great premise....awful ending
whokilledreno16 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film started off fantastic. It explained in full detail how this poor art student, had her life stripped away from her. Every demoralising act that the girl suffered, the watcher suffered too. Very few films strike this kind of emotional response. I feel that this was partly due to the complete lack of humorous moments to lighten the mood, that you find in so many movies (to make sure that the audience remembers its a movie and to not get too upset).

However it is in this viewers opinion, that the film finished as if they had no idea on how they could end it differently. It was as if they took this idea to a financier and he/she gave them the money, but not enough time.

I understand that the girl found her capture to be the last remaining tie to her previous existence. Though it was completely overplayed.

The fight with the brick, the stabbing with the glass, the prison sequence, her freedom.

In short, brilliant concept - with an ending like a glass of week old coke.
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4/10
Incommunication, violence, hypermasculinity...
tenshi_ippikiookami24 February 2017
Kim Ki-duk's "Bad Guy" brings the viewer to a world of violence, jealousy, unfulfilled desires and silly mistakes that gets undone under repetition, tonal shifts and a running time that goes a little bit for too long.

Sun-hwa is waiting for her boyfriend when she attracts the attention of Han-ki. Han-ki, who doesn't seem to care too much for others' opinions, decides to kiss her in front of everyone, including the boyfriend. Some soldiers that are passing by reward him with a beating. But the story of Sun-hwa and Han-ki is not over, and when she makes a mistake, Sun-hwa falls into the hands of Han-ki and his group, which will force her into a life of prostitution.

If you have seen any of Kim Ki-duk's movies you will already know his love for silences, the problems of communication, the gender relationships (including the more carnal side) in South Korea and other stuff. And "Bad Guy" has a little bit of everything. Sadly, all these interesting observations fall into a plot which suffers from bad pace, little originality and two characters who are little developed (you can see their arc development from moment one). Which is a pity, because the acting is good (even if Han-ki's constant mutism is overdone).

As a look into the darkness we all have within ourselves, it is interesting enough. But it cannot overcome its shortcomings, Kim Ki- duk overplaying his cards this time.
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