A Bittersweet Life (2005)

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I remember when I first saw this movie. I was working in Blockbuster (RIP), and as we were allowed free rentals I decided to give it a whirl as I’d heard a lot about it and thought it’d be rude not to really since I didn’t have to pay. I can say that I was blown away. This film really is fantastic. It’s not a fluke either, there are some amazing movies that have come out of South Korea, all of which are well worth seeking out.

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The story concerns an enforcer and hotel manager called Sun-Woo (played by the awesome Byung-hun Lee) who is tasked by his ruthless boss to shadow his mistress named Hee-Soo, who he suspects is cheating while he is away. He is told by his boss to kill Hee-Soo and whoever she is seeing if it turns out to be true. Sun-Woo begins to follow Hee-Soo and slowly begins to develop an attraction for her. He discovers that she is cheating on his boss and savagely beats the mystery man, only stopping when he sees how distraught Hee-Soo is becoming. He promises to spare their lives if they promise never to see each other again. Sun-Woo’s boss finds out that Sun-Woo disobeyed an order and tortures him to find out why, leaving him for dead. He doesn’t bank on Sun-Woo killing anyone in his way on his quest for revenge.

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The action is incredible. There are some blistering fight scenes, particularly one in a warehouse where Sun-Woo takes on almost 30 people. There are also some fantastic shoot outs and one particularly memorable scene when Sun-Woo goes to buy some guns which is comical and nail bitingly tense all at once.

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Byung-hun Lee is fantastic as Sun-Woo. Most movie fans will recognise him from the G.I. Joe movies where he plays Storm Shadow, but he has made some fantastic movies in his native country. One of the films that he made which is definitely on par with this is ‘I Saw The Devil’. I have done a review of that movie, however to read it you will need to visit my good friends blog http://www.stigmatophiliablog.wordpress.com as it is appearing as an exclusive on their blog soon.

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This film really does rock. If you are one of those people that doesn’t watch subtitled movies, for whatever reason, then I urge you to break that habit and watch this. It really is fantastic. It’s full of bone crunching action, awesome fight scenes and blisteringly good shoot outs. Seriously, give it a go.

5/5

JM

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Pieta (2012)

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I have a penchant for Asian cinema. I love it. My favourite at the moment has to be Korean cinema. I find the Koreans have a skill for capturing the worst traits of humanity on film. They show the ugliness of the human soul and the real reactions of people when put in situations for which there is no peaceful solution.

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Pieta is no different. Kang-Do is a ruthless debt collector, who will employ any method necessary to get the money back from those who owe. His life is thrown into disarray when a mysterious lady appears claiming to be his mother who abandoned him. Initially sceptical Kang-Do warms to the woman only for her to mysteriously vanish again, which sets in motion a chain of violent events in Kang-Do’s search for the truth.

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Kim Ki Duk never pulls punches in his movies, you only have to watch ‘The Isle’ to understand this, but his films are an art form in the purist sense. Not for the sensitive souls, but those who want to open their minds and look deeper into movies than what is on the screen.

4/5

JM

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Stoker (2013)

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Dear oh dear. Where do I even start? I was quite excited about Stoker when I first heard about it. Mainly down to two points. One, it was being directed by Chan-wook Park (director of OldBoy), and two, it was written by Wentworth Miller (of Prison Break fame). Well I am sorry to say I was sorely disappointed. The story concerns a young girl called India Stoker (played by Mia Wasikowska) who’s father (played by Dermot Mulroney) is killed in a car accident. Shortly after her uncle Charlie (played my Matthew Goode) comes to stay with India and her mentally unstable mother (played by Nicole Kidman). Charlie begins to earn India’s mothers affection, but gets only looks of distrust from India. To say anymore would spoil the story.

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Matthew Goode is perhaps the films only saving grace. He is played to perfection, using his good looks any sinister charms to worm his way into the family. Mia Wasikowska is okay as India, but I just never bought into her role. As for Nicole Kidman, well she just annoys me in this movie. There is a small role for Ralph Brown as the Sherriff. Movie fans might remember Ralph as the drug addled roadie in Wayne’s World 2. He has only a small role, but feels very out of place, mainly down to his appalling American accent.

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What really hurt this movie for me was the amount of 5 star ratings it got. This is a pet peeve of mine as star ratings hurt a movie, by raising expectations the film can’t hope to match, or lowering them so much you fail to be let down. In this instance all the 5 star ratings made me think I was going to see something akin to OldBoy, which blew my mind. Sadly not. I watched this movie and found myself clock watching. It takes far too long to get going and by the time it had, I’d already lost interest. I found nothing worthy of a 5 star rating. I would say perhaps give it a watch if you want to see what all the fuss is about, but don’t get your hopes up.

2/5

JM

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