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All reviews - Movies (12) - TV Shows (1)

another foreign classic

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 10 December 2006 07:09 (A review of A Dirty Carnival)

What can I say, this is only the second Korean film I've ever watched and again I've been blown away by such great storytelling and directing. The first Korean film I saw just 3 weeks ago (see below - A Dirty Carnival) got me researching other Korean film and I heard A Bittersweet Life was comparable to A Dirty Carnival. While each plot can be deemed rather simple in storyline, we are brought into a world that few know exist and we go through an exciting journey throughout the harsh underworld of Korea.

I'll first start off by saying that while both A Bittersweet Life and A Dirty Carnival are "gangster flicks", they share few similarities. Although the premise is generally the same, I believe they are both contrasting masterpieces in their own right. In this film, the main character Sunwoo goes through simlar personal emotions and restraints that affect his "professional" career. The main difference is how each character from each movie interact within their own contrasting environments and situations. One example is that this movie is more realistic in the sense that guns are used through-out while ADC never really had or needed the guns to make it a gangster movie. Fight scenes are almost night and day in each film and it shows me that action sequences have no clear cut formula to be great, as long as it works well within the story. I've never witnessed actors playing conflicted characters better than these two that I've seen in the last two Korean films.

What I've enjoyed most about A Bittersweet Life is that it's completely original and honestly just much better than any other action films I have seen produced anywhere else in the world. This goes for character authenticity and great cinematography. There are always exceptions, but it's far too often now to see movies going for the storybook format and predictable storylines rather than the raw, emotional scenes I've seen in A Dirty Carnival and now A Bittersweet Life.


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Great mobster flick

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 5 December 2006 01:36 (A review of A Bittersweet Life)

When I watched "A Dirty Carnival" (Dalkomhan insaeng) at the Chicago International Film Fesitival, I knew I had to sit down and write a review about it. Let me just say the theater was applauding at the end of this movie more than I had ever experienced in a public theater. I even heard a guy behind me while were leaving the theater say "This was better than Scarface!"

You know what, I think I'm with him on that account. I hadn't heard much about this movie until earlier Saturday when I read another review in Variety. Little did I know was that the first South Korean film I ever was going to watch was one of the best gangster films I've ever seen (and I've watched all the classics from aforementioned Scarface, The Godfather, Goodfellas etc.).

Sang-Chul, the protagonist gangster in the film was played great by the youthful looking Yoon-Jae Moon. During the course of the film we go through random sorts of thug characters, as well as Sang-Chul's past as he re-unites with his peers from his school years. This is when you could see his struggle between which life either as a deviant or regular civilian he should choose. There's also a love interest that could have been horribly pulled off if director Ha Yu pulled the typical cliche and predictable, but he never did. A twist is thrown in as one of his schoolyard peers returns to his life wanting to make a film about gangsters, so who not better to ask than Sang-Chul? The making of a movie within the movie worked on so many levels because we could see Sang-Chul struggling between his family, his work, and his new-found friends and love interest pulling him in seperate directions, while it was all being filmed in right front of him. This not only provided a great story throughout, but also uneasy tension, action and even some humor.

My favorite parts of the film were the fight action sequences that were long almost too grueling to get though, yet I couldn't keep my eyes off of the screen. Only once in the film did I see a gun being pulled out, and that was for a split second. Most of the gangsters fought with bats, pipes or shashimi knives due to gang code of conduct. It definately made for a more entertaining watch in that aspect.


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A decent noir throwback

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 5 December 2006 01:24 (A review of Brick)

I've read about this movie for quite some time, but never got around to watching it. Joseph-Gordon Levitt plays Brenden, a high-school student who attempts to solve the killing of his ex-girlfriend. You quickly notice that this is no ordinary teen murder mystery, it plays homage to the old "noir" films that were so prevalant in the 40's and 50's. The film style, plot twists, and somewhat over-the-top characters (see Lukas Haas Pin character for example) are done very well, however if you didn't know anything about the movie going into it, you'd probably think it was a little too hard to comprehend. The dialogue is hard to follow at times, but again this is a throwback film in some sorts, so it may require multiple viewings to truly grasp the meaning of many scenes.

I particularily liked how the movie used this type of film style in a setting like a high school in suburbia, where you might not think would work so well. It was pulled off as well as it could be, but again the characters were just too unbelievable in many aspects. What makes me appreciate the film though is how many great actors and great directors there are as shown in this movie that are not afraid to produce a film that clearly goes against the grain.


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