Crying Fist (2005) Poster

(2005)

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8/10
Cul-de-sac of crying fists
Gigo_Satana23 June 2005
My main reason to seek this move out was to see Min-sik Choi, but I also shared an equal interest in what the director and his brother had to offer as well. I think we all had our share of boxing movies dealing with a man overcoming the obstacles and reaching his triumph in front of a massive crowd, with his face swelled up and bloody, looking for someone to share his happiness with. Then you had the bad guy conveniently set up in the opposite corner with redundant reactions and a task to come off as inhuman as possible throughout the film. This movie is no such travesty of epic proportions. It is so much more.

I don't want to dive too deeply into the plot, but in short the story deals with two men of different ages. Choi plays an Asian Games silver medalist whose health and family is in a downward spiral and Ryoo Seung-beom plays a careless young man with crime chasing tendencies and a small family that stands behind him no matter what.

With such premises set up both characters not only offer great acting, (notable Ryoo Seung-beom, who is barely recognizable) but they relentlessly take turns in shredding any hopes of achieving a better life or even surviving the one they already have. In certain cases their judgment is at fault and at other instances their luck just simply runs out. Ultimately the audience is left to cheer for these two characters, but since the film stands at over 2 hours it makes it pretty hard for you to somber over one guy more than the other.

Now the boxing itself is done pretty neatly, although for a silver medalist Choi's character had a rather amateurish fighting style, which could have been excused for number of reasons. Still it isn't even a complaint, as the boxing was booked sufficiently and to a minimum since the film's number one priority was to plunge you into the lives of these characters before the big showdown.

I guess it's safe to call this a "feel bad" movie, but one with an unorthodox resolution at last, which wasn't as much about guessing, but more about conjugating and accepting. In the end it was another great getaway cinematic experience from Korea, which I find very rewarding when knowing just where to look. Definite recommendation, Ryoo Seung-beom breathed a new life not only into his future career but made his past work seem more subtly meaningful than it actually was.
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10/10
A fight for dignity
spgun23 June 2005
Boxing is used in this movie as the main plot, but this is not a Rocky episode and the protagonists do not fight for glory, fame or wealth. The climax match is just for the domestic rookie contest title and even a win would not improve the life of either Kang or Ryu that much. Boxing has long been dying as a professional sports anyway, at least in Korea.

So what these two main characters fight for? They are just trying to regain the minimum dignity as a human being, the last desperate effort to climb up from the deepest bottom of their existence. Therefore, you know, sometimes who wins is not so important.

This film was not a big hit when it was released to Korean theaters, and no wonder it was as the majority of movie consumers are happy youngsters.

Many of them think this is just another tear-jerking melodrama. It is not, I guarantee, but you would not be able to appreciate the real thing unless you have once gone through your own hell in the life. I cried with Ryu at the end of the movie, I felt his sorrow and happiness so real just as they were mine, it was mentally painful.
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9/10
Crying Audience - 8.5/10
simon_booth31 July 2005
Ryoo Seung-Wan is one of South Korea's more interesting directors, if only for the fact that each of his 4 feature films has been very different to the others, though all have an element of action/violence. Last year's Urban Martial Arts Fantasy ARAHAN was an eminently watchable commercial film that deserved a worldwide release on the scale of KUNG FU HUSTLE in my opinion, but was denied it. 2005's CRYING FIST is about as different as a film can be, and is much more suited to the art-house circuits than the multiplexes. We'll see if it gets even that :) Basically, CRYING FIST is a Boxing Film. One might argue that there have been entirely too many boxing films already, as the sport has always been a favourite for underdog stories - the visuals of a boxing match being particularly evocative for a tale of triumph over adversity, I guess. Since there have been so many boxing films, including some that are good to great, it's pretty easy for a new one to be dismissed as formulaic, clichéd and entirely redundant in the grand of scheme of things - because they usually are. CRYING FIST escapes this fate because it's a boxing film with a difference! It's not a big difference by any measure, but it's enough to make the film a worthwhile entry in the genre.

CRYING FIST follows too mostly independent stories, both revolving around underdogs and boxing. CHOI Min-Sik is an ex-boxer who had some moderate success in his youth, but at 40 years old finds himself penniless and generally under-qualified, with his home life in such a mess that he's sleeping on the streets before the film has run too long. To try to make enough money to eat he sets up a "business" on the streets where people can pay to use him as a human punch-bag.

RYOO Seung-Bum (the director's brother) plays a young thug with a tendency to violence and anti-social behaviour that quickly lands him in prison. The prison has its own boxing team, and RYOO is encouraged to join, to channel his aggression and learn self-control, to make himself a better man and all that.

CRYING FIST presumably derives its name from the fact it's a bit depressing, and may produce a liquid response from the viewer in places. It focuses heavily on the characters, who are pretty crappy people in many respects, but hurting enough that the audience can't help feel sympathy for them, even care for them. CHOI Min-Sik has already proved that he can make just about any character come to life and make the audience care for them, but it's quite a surprise that RYOO Seung-Bum was able to achieve the same effect, since he was mostly annoying in ARAHAN and is generally listed as the reason people didn't like the film (wrong people, obviously). He's still not up to Choi Min-Sik's level of acting, but so few people in the world are that it's a little cruel to have to compare them.

The visual style of CRYING FIST is entirely different to that of ARAHAN, closer to NO BLOOD NO TEARS but still different. The film uses a lot of rapid exposure film, creating that stroboscopic effect during fast movement and simply being left to overexpose in other scenes, meaning the visuals are generally quite intense. Colour is used sparingly, appropriate for a film that's much more gritty and downbeat than the lurid ARAHAN.

Writing and direction is top-notch, and the film generally feels very maturely and expertly directed. It does perhaps veer a little too close to cliché towards the end, particularly an extended training montage that was just too ROCKY IV to be taken seriously (a shame RYOO couldn't find a newer way to show it). That misstep is pretty much the only one in the film though, with other scenes being quite inspired.

Of course there's some actual boxing in the ring in the film, and these scenes are shot very powerfully and realistically - completely opposite in style to the fights in ARAHAN. The fights are mostly filmed in extended takes which leave no doubt that the actors are doing the fighting themselves, absolutely no stunt doubles or clever editing. If it weren't for the way the camera moves around the ring and between the cameras I'd say the fights were unchoreographed, so convincing do they look. The actors must have undertaken a lot of training to learn how to box, and their stamina and resilience is a credit to them. I wasn't always sure the bloody bruises on their faces were done with makeup! Although CRYING FIST is arguably the "better" film, I didn't enjoy it is as much as ARAHAN for the simple reason that it's not as much FUN. But then it's not meant to be, and there'd be something wrong if it was. It's not as easy a watch as ARAHAN and probably doesn't have the same (potential) universal appeal, but it has much more "substance" and is likely to make a deeper impression on those who find what they're looking for in it.

So, if you're looking for a boxing film that might just make you cry, CRYING FIST comes highly recommended. At the very least it proves that the RYOO brothers deserve close attention in future, if only to see which direction they go in with their next film.
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10/10
brilliant movie
mountainstream25 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
crying fist is a brilliant well put together movie. crying fist takes the viewers on a journey with the main characters of the film. the way how Tae-shik relationship with his goes down so much that i wondered how could redeem himself to make his son and wife respect him. Sang-hwan also takes a hard look at himself while in prison. personally i must give the director full praise for his vision and his pain staking patience in delivering a heart rendering movie that hit me at every emotional. the actors were superb and their fight scenes looked very realistic. in all what i saw is a film that made me root for both boxers to win but none them to loose. this film touched my heart so much i was forced to comment, this great movie (which just finished watching)has hit me harder than i expected i am still emotionally shaken up i will add this movie to another one of my all time movies that make me cry leon. i recommend everyone to give this movie a try you will not be disappointed
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9/10
a very recommendable one!
kmevy30 August 2006
When i started watching this film i didn't have any expectations ... because i didn't have a clue what the film was about. So it could have been turned out pretty nasty; but luckily it did't! It was a really nice experience.

The first obvious thing i noticed was the professional work of the DP/director. This film is beautiful shot; lightning, camera etc. Sound and music were fine, but weren't very special but rather very solid. The second thing is the surprising good acting of the entire cast. There weren't any awkward moments. Everything felt very natural. And this is very important for the entire film because so much of the atmosphere depends on the performance of the lead protagonists. If they fail, the whole film might collapse.

A friend of mine said "crying fist" would be the Korean equivalent of Rocky. Well, i don't agree with this. The story of "crying fist" has much more content and value; discussing, for example, the issues and problems of people who lost their status in society is important and worthwhile. And, in this case, also very moving.

If you are interested don't hesitate! I really can recommend this one!
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8/10
This is a solid effort
refresh_daemon26 September 2006
Another day, another Corean film, but another good one. This one is a boxing movie. But it's not really a boxing movie in the sense that Rocky is a boxing movie. It's rather a drama foremost, about down-and-out losers and their sad pathetic lives, and then a boxing movie: boxing being the means by which they can lift themselves out of their conditions.

The two characters are quite different in some sense, one being a former silver medal winning Asian Games champion with no job and on the brink of losing his marriage and family and the other being a troubled street youth with a compassionate family. At some point, both characters lose out and find their hope in boxing, whether on the streets as a human sandbag or in the prison gym. And then a greater hope is found.

Of course, unlike a typical boxing movie, you have two protagonists and when their paths cross, you don't know who to root for. Both are sad sacks and hard to love people, but have enough humanity still in them that you can't help but wish for them to make it in the end. But... the movie brings up the strange conflict of... who? All the same, that sort of conflict is fairly realistic in any one vs. one story when you think about it. There's hardly a truly villainous villain like the villain of Rocky IV.

The film is shot in two different styles, for each characters stories, although they're tied together well by overarching style elements and the characters are fairly well developed and superbly acted. I will admit that the younger character's story is a little incredulous sometimes and a small bit contrived for extra sympathy, but the movie is generally so watchable overall that I was able to ignore it. With mostly solid writing, great acting, excellent direction and high production value, I'd have to say that Crying Fist has turned out to be one of my favorite boxing films and possibly even sports film. Which isn't to say it's one of my favorite films.

Some of the contrivances are still glaring, and it's hard to fully ignore, but all the same, this is a solid effort and a film that I could recommend highly. Good stuff! 8/10.
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9/10
Another Fantastic Korean Reinvention
walterradunsky12 October 2013
One of the great qualities about many Korean filmmakers is their ability to reinvent Hollywood genres. Drawing upon the intellectual and moral sensibilities of their own culture, they transform genres that in America traditionally consist of incredibly simple-minded narratives into something far more human, complex and literary. In the film "Crying Fist," it is the boxing movie genre that is wonderfully reinvented. Rather than presenting the audience with gratuitous action scenes involving a hero and a villain--as American audiences are so used to seeing--"Crying Fist" carefully and sympathetically develops the lives of both fighters. In the end, we are left with not only empathy for both fighters but a thoughtful drama that seeks to deepen our insight into the human condition.
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7/10
A curious Korean fight film that will ultimately please lovers of melodrama and boxing, but few others.
BradBate31 October 2005
Like Rod Steiger's pained and enraged portrayal of Sol Nazerman in "The Pawnbroker," Choi Min-shik's performance in the 2003 film "Oldboy" is so indelibly stamped in my mind that I shall never forget it. So, I was understandably attracted to "Crying Fist" ("Jumeogi Unda"), knowing that he shared top billing in another presentation from the Hawaii International Film Festival. Choi's turn as a middle aged failure of a con man, whose only claim to fame is an amateur boxing title in his youth, again proves his power as an actor. The performance does not, however, pack the strength to overcome a sappy, melodramatic ending that ruins what might have been a more satisfying work.

Gang Tae-shik (Choi) is so pathetically down on his luck that he has taken to the world's most brutal form of street performance. For the equivalent of about $10, frustrated men, serial bullies and guys just looking to take out their aggression and anger on someone, can strap on a pair of gloves and pound away on Gang for one full minute. Gang will defend himself but not fight back. Labeled "the human punching bag," he lets women whale away on him for two minutes. He longs for a serious boxing comeback, a chance to regain his dignity and maybe win back his estranged wife and son.

Yoo Sang-hwan (Ryu Seung-beom) has acute anger management and drug abuse issues; he is regularly beating people up on the street and getting arrested. He gets introduced to boxing in a juvenile lock-up, where a tough old trainer convinces him that a boxing career might pull him out of the gutter of his life. He is years younger than Gang, but no less interesting or well-developed a character. Ryu, brother of Writer/Director Ryu Seung-wan, is highly effective in the role.

Inevitably, Gang and Yoo fight each other in an amateur match that could change each of their lives or accomplish nothing.

Interestingly, the characters never meet until their bout, so you have a film with parallel story lines and two protagonists, both underdogs. Who do you cheer for and why? Curious. (Actually, Korean boxing fans don't cheer, so the fight scenes are eerily and sometimes frighteningly quiet, with the only sounds coming from gloves striking human flesh, the grunts and groans of the fighters, and the admonitions of their trainers. Curious.) The fight scenes are not the best I've ever seen filmed, but they are very realistic and appropriate in the context of these boxers being amateurs. Choi and Ryu clearly took some serious hits during production. There are not a lot of pulled punches.

I found the third act unnecessarily melodramatic, but if you don't mind that kind of emotional string-pulling, you may find "Crying Fist" very much to your liking. But be warned, it is a brutal, bloody film, just as boxing is a brutal and bloody sport.
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Uplifting movie that is way more character driven than it has to do with boxing
KineticSeoul20 September 2011
This is a emotional and uplifting film that revolves around two characters. They both have separate stories but they come down to one goal at the end. And both fighting for different reasons. One of the main aspect that stands out about this movie is how it shows the two protagonist being pitiful and despicable. And as the movie progresses you get to know more about both characters and they become likable or at least sort of understandable of why they are the way they are. One main gripe I have is how the movie moves along in a way where the relationships and bonding isn't really clarified sometimes, it just happens. Which makes it seem like the movie is missing few scenes or just not well developed. Also if there was at least some connection between the two characters besides them both hitting rock bottom it would have been better. Especially when they both face each other in the ring. What is really hard to watch is how you care for both characters one maybe slightly more than the other...But the point is you want both of them to win, but only one can come out winning.

7.5/10
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10/10
Best film about boxers ever
olmac8 October 2013
I love Korean movies and have been a fight fan most of my life, so maybe I'm an easy mark here. Nevertheless, I believe this film is an outstanding study of two very opposite boxers. One a washed-up 43 year old Olympic Silver Medalist who gets beaten up for money on the streets, the other a teenage thug who ends up in juvenile detention after a mugging. The two stories don't cross until the final bout.

In the process, both evolve from being unpleasant jerks, who disrespect their families, to being... average. Characters, fighting, story-lines, etc. are very realistic. Thought you won't fall in love with either boxer, you'll probably wish both could win the big fight.

Movie may seem a bit slow and slightly long at 135 minutes but I think it's worth it so I recommend it highly, especially to fans of boxing and Korean film.
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10/10
A Second Chance In Life
Desertman8412 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Crying Fist is a movie about two people who got a second chance in life through the sport of boxing.

First,the story revolves around Kang Tae-shik.He is a former boxing champion whose life is at a dead end. His past glory worth almost nothing in the present day, he has found a creative but strenuous way to earn money: he becomes a human punching bag. In the meantime, his disintegrating marriage places great strain on both wife and husband, not to mention their young son.

The other person is Yu Sang-hwan.He is a delinquent from a crumbling neighborhood who gets by on committing petty theft and harassing students. His relationship with his father, younger brother and grandmother is tenuous at best. One day his life is turned upside down, and like Tae-shik, he reaches the nadir of his existence. More out of frustration than anything else, he takes up boxing.

The film's theme of change and getting another chance in life is truly inspiring. Choi Min-Sik and Ryu Seung-Beom did a wonderful job for their roles of two characters that made a change from being dark to inspirational characters.

The movie started slow it explored the life of these people but in the end, it gave them a chance to redeem themselves. The movie is a must-see for people who truly love inspirational films.
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6/10
Slightly above average boxing melodrama
thither18 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There was a lot to like in this movie, particularly some strong acting on the part of the two leads Ryu Seung-beom and Choi Min-suk (of Oldboy fame), and an unusually bleak tone throughout. I gave it some credit for going beyond the good boxer / bad boxer stereotype that seems to come up in a lot of boxing movies, and for making the leads somewhat human in their foibles.

Ultimately, though, it didn't really seem to add much to the genre. It was a little original in showing the two boxers as equally desperate sad sacks, but beyond that, the melodrama in the third act seemed like it could have come out of any number of boxing films over the years, and there wasn't quite enough non-melodramatic elements to interest me.

***SPOILERS***

Really, if you have to drag one character's grandmother out of the hospital and have another character's estranged son run away to watch the final match, you know something has gone badly wrong with your character arc, right? By the time the audience has sat through hours of backstory and training montages to get to the third act, they should already care enough about these characters that their emotions don't need to be manipulated by cheap tricks like these.

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I don't think it's a bad film, and I imagine fans of the boxing genre will find it refreshing (I'm not one). For casual viewers, I don't find much in Crying Fist to recommend it over any number of other excellent films.
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