#41 – A Bittersweet Life (Director’s Cut) – by Nick Andersen

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A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng) is a 2005 South Korean R-rated action film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, starring Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Kim Yeong-cheol, Hwang Jung-min and Kim Roi-ha. After refusing to kill his boss’s cheating girlfriend and escaping his own death, a gangster goes on a violent revenge path.

NO SPOILERS (Don’t watch the trailer!)

It’s a refreshingly realistic action film with outstanding performances by the whole cast. Co-star Kim Roi-ha shows a great character development throughout the film and is fun to watch. I admire the respect and discipline of Asian cultures such as in Korea, Japan and China. Kim Sunwoo (Lee Byung-hun) is a straight-faced enforcer loyal to all his boss’s orders. We don’t need to know about his personal life nor his background. We only see him on the job and this makes him look like the ultimate asset. Almost robotic. The star’s fighting skills and agility brings more to his gangster role and the fight choreography is good.

The film is beautiful and elegant without having to show excessive blood for one that has an air of Kill Bill. The music is wonderfully composed to each scene both calm and action, which when combined with the actors’ facial expressions and limiting words, delivers an amazing result. Most of the shooting is still which I enjoy much more than handheld shooting as it gives a higher professional touch. I must say that the production’s lighting is very pleasant. The story, the characters, the interactions, the music, the decisions and the consequences deliver a tasteful work of art, and the ending… Well you’ll have to watch it to find out for yourself.

This is my first Kim Jee-woon film and I loved it. A film speaks more to you through facial expressions and music than words could ever, and A Bittersweet Life does exactly this. I highly recommend not watching the trailer as it gives away much of the points of the plot.

Thanks for reading my review!

– Nick Andersen

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