Released from prison, Taesik goes to live with an adopted mother. He takes a job and tries to live a quiet life with his new family. His efforts are threatened when a politician seeks to knock the family restaurant down to build a mall.
[after beating up an abusive husband/father]
Fathers in this country's all fucked up. They're pathetic fucks but when it comes to family, they're Kim Il-sung. Isn't that right, fucker? Think you're Kim Il-sung?
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Breathless will probably garner comparisons to early Scorsese, considering the subject matter. It is not that good, but neither is it that derivative. If anything, it favorably reminded me of the later TV work of Alan Clarke. Despite the summary above, it is not about characters seeking redemption, but family and solace from a cycle of criminal abuse fueled by misplaced ancestral reverence. Without giving away the end, it is more about insight gained by sacrifice that plays upon cyclical reincarnation themes than a solitary quest towards forgiveness.
The multi-talented Yang Ik-Joon does a great job portraying a man so damaged that he expresses affection for a child by repeatedly shoving his head and calling him a bastard. Whether you find it disturbing or funny, the gradual manner in which the characters' darker and more intimate aspects are revealed is excellent.
Instead of credulous explication, back-story or flashbacks, the relationships emerge out of frankly rude and often violent interactions which also advance the plot. I might have had a few gripes about the cinematography, especially in relation to scenes of violence. I kind of expected a bit more from Yang Ik-Joon in this regard. But for a film by an actor as first-time director/writer/editor/star, this is incredibly good.
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