7.6/10
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A Bittersweet Life (2005)

Dalkomhan insaeng (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Crime, Drama | 1 April 2005 (South Korea)
Things go wrong for a high ranking mobster when he doesn't proceed by his boss's orders.

Director:

Jee-woon Kim (as Kim Jee-woon)

Writers:

Dong-Cheol Kim (character created by: A Bittersweet Life), Jee-woon Kim (as Kim Jee-woon)
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7 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Byung-hun Lee ... Sun-woo
Min-a Shin ... Hee-soo
Yeong-cheol Kim ... Mr. Kang (as Kim Young-Chul)
Jung-min Hwang ... President Baek (as Jeong-min Hwang)
Roe-ha Kim ... Mun-suk
Hae-gon Kim Hae-gon Kim ... Weapon smuggler
Eric Moon ... Gun Dealer's Brother (as Eric)
Dal-su Oh ... Myung-gu
Gi-yeong Lee Gi-yeong Lee ... Mu-sung
Goo Jin ... Min-gi
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Yu-mi Jung ... Mi-Ae
Tae-hee Kim Tae-hee Kim
Mu-yeong Lee Mu-yeong Lee
Kwang-rok Oh Kwang-rok Oh
Domashchenko Vadym Domashchenko Vadym ... Russian weapon smuggler
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

When doing right goes very, very wrong.


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

South Korea

Language:

Korean | Russian

Release Date:

1 April 2005 (South Korea) See more »

Also Known As:

A Bittersweet Life See more »

Filming Locations:

South Korea

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$10,080,094
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital EX

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Mr. Kang: Let's not make a fuss.
Sun-woo: This is my last place. I have nowhere else to go.
Mr. Kang: Do you really want to take this too far?
Sun-woo: [Ignores his question, rebukes] Why would you do this to me, Mr. Kang?
Mr. Kang: Because you did not follow my orders.
Sun-woo: No, none of that stuff. Tell me the real reason why. Were you really trying to kill me? Do you know how long I have worked for you? Like a dog, I have served you for 7 years! Why? Tell me anything. Anything. Tell me!
[shoots Mr. Kang]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Two versions of the film exist, the original theatrical version and the director's cut. The director's cut's edits include slight cutting and re-arrangement of scenes, swapping music placement and some additional scenes that do not appear in the original version of the film. See more »

Connections

References Once Upon a Time in America (1984) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
A slick and stylish revenge drama.
4 December 2006 | by BA_HarrisonSee 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.


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