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Korean gangster cool!
A Bittersweet Life (DVD)
Member Name: thedevilinme
A Bittersweet Life (DVD)
Date: 22/05/07, updated on 22/05/07 (124 review reads)
Advantages: Asian Extreme at its best
These guys do this type of movie like no others and only Reservoir Dogs and Gangster Number One have got anywhere near them in recent years in the west. Korea are the new Gods of the genre and A Bittersweet Life is testament to that. If you love your assassins walking into camera in slow motion, dressed in the iconic long leather coat or nice silk suit, firing off two pistols, taking slugs in the process then this one is for you. For me this is the best foreign DVD of the year so far.
Stylish Sun Woo (Lee Beyong-heon) runs a likewise hotel on behalf of Mob Boss Mr Kang (Kim Yeong-cheoi) in downtown Seoul. If the customers play up then Kim deals with it. After a routine run in with another gang, the Boss, who is going away on a trip, wants Sun to keep an eye on his young porcelain doll girlfriend Heui-su (Shin Min-ha). If she is cheating on him then ‘appropriate’ measures must be taken to keep Kangs honor. She knows that and he knows that.
After introductions and some tailing of her car, a boyfriend is discovered, things further complicated when Sun falls for her angelic and delicate looks. This is not the sort of girl you expect to be looking for a Mob Boss sugar daddy.
Sun is faced with the decision to maintain his honor and kill the pair of lovers or turn a blind eye and take his chances with his boss. Sun is a loyal employee and doesn’t want to upset the boss—he certainly doesn’t want to put a bullet in her beautiful face.
After the situation escalates with the rival gang and the boss returns, Kim is soon the outcast, a price on his head, fighting for his life on many fronts. But pride stops him walking away from Heui-su and vengeance is soon in the air for his unrewarded loyalty.
Although most of these movies follow the same formula they are just so watchable when done right. There really isn’t anything new here but for Lee Beyong-heons startling performance brings the whole thing to life, sizzling with cool and style. Its one of those classy foreign films you would watch again when it pops up on More Four or something it’s that cool. There’s real menace and pathos about Sun, but bottled up with his tender side throughout he steals every scene. A very charismatic actor that’s sure to impress in more movies.
This is a stunning gangster noi, shimmering with technical polish and visceral shock and eye catching visuals. With that Tarrantino verve and classic Honk Kong cinema cool you are gripped from scene one, never a moment where your mind drifts to the kettle or seeing if the big money is on in Deal or no Deal. This is one of the first foreign movies I watched all the way through for along time.
The savagery of the film hangs on a single twist of fete. One wrong move and your toast in this harsh and dangerous world. Like I said, few come out the other end with all theirs digits.
It’s funny yet nasty, violent yet sweet. Only Asia Extreme cinema has mastered this distinctive style and atmosphere and if you love foreign film you would be a bloody fool not to see this cracker. What better for a Friday night than an ice cold killer in a silk suit dispatching the bad guys with those guns that never run out of bullets, reloaded by the owner doing a double somersault and flip to drop the mag in, all in slow motion... Class!
Extras on foreign DVDs don’t work for me and more subtitles to wade through has me reaching for the fast-forward. We have interviews with cast and crew, the usual gauche affair with lots of polite conversation that means little.
The Premier in Cannes is also very familiar, lots of bows and delicate handshakes. They are a very sexy cast though. A nice Tartan Extreme pull-out completes the package.
Summary: Slick and stylish gangster cool