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Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 6 user ratings

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Bad Guy
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by Chris Parry

"The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it might not have sucked."
3 stars

A South Korean film that has sparked widespread controversy and outrage in its country of origin, Bad Guy achieves one thing that no other film since Matthew Barney's bizarre art-piece, Cremaster 3, has achieved; it confused the bejesus out of me. It's now 24 hours since I saw the film and I'm still trying to figure out what just happened, why it happened and whether or not its happening should be considered a good thing or not. Let me try to help you understand why.

A large, muscular-looking man (Cho Jae-Hyun) sees a gorgeous woman (Seo Won) sitting on a park bench. He sits next to her, only for her to move away. When her boyfriend arrives, the large man walks over, grabs the girl and thrusts a long, hard kiss upon her, even with her boyfriend smacking him with heavy objects to try to get him to let go. The cops are called, the large guy is beaten, she spits in his face and he, in turn, blackmails her so that she'll have to work for him as a prostitute.

Didn't see that last bit coming, did you?

So the large guy is Hang Gi. He runs a brothel, has a few sidekicks, and isn't one to be messed with. The girl is Seon-Hwa, and she's as gorgeous as any girl you'll ever see in your life - period. I can understand why Hang Gi falls for her at first glance. What I can't understand is why he'd make her work as a whore. And why he watches her through a hidden mirror in her bedroom while she's being taken against her will by an assortment of clients. And I can't understand why, whenever this guy gets stabbed (it happens a lot), he doesn't die. In fact, upon being stabbed for the last time he seems to die, then he gets up and goes out to buy a shirt.

Now, I don't know about you, but this is all very weird. Why would you enslave someone you supposedly love? Why would you watch as your buddies have sex with her? Why would you save her from prostitution only to have her work as a prostitute again? And what's with the girl at the beach who walks into the water and doesn't come out? Is this supposed to be a dream? Is it supposed to be the activity of ghosts?

I saw it, and I'm damned if I, or anyone around me, knows. Directed by Korean enfant terrible Kim Ki-Duk, who is known for low budgets, quick shoots and films that get freaky, Bad Guy is a film I defy you to explain. It's about forty minutes too long, but it's not long enough to explain where it's going. It's got next to no dialogue, yet sometimes the dialogue is too much. It's funny, yet at the same time it's depressing as all get out. I can't decide whether the cast or the audience got exploited here, if indeed anyone did.

Seon-Hwa’s transformation from college girl to whore is particularly nasty, but then the film seems to delight in hurting her over and over, until she’s such a damaged piece of meat that she actually prefers to stay in the business she’d hated, and with the man who took her life away. Or does she…? A lot is left open to interpretation in Bad Guy, and while that's certainly preferable to the usual Hollywood habit of tying everything up in pretty bows, there's something to be said for being able to comprehend what's actually going on.

So now, a day after seeing this film, I think I have it figured out and what most in the audience saw of the film (essentially, the paragraph above) might not be what we’re supposed to read between the lines. I put clues together and I think I have it sorted, but hey, I'm not telling you what it is I figured out. Mostly because I don't want to spoil th emovie for you, and admittedly also because I don't actually know if I'm on the money or not. And who needs to embarrass themselves in public on a mere hunch?

Watch the flick, take it in, and drop me an email explaining your take on it. I’ve got a Hong Kong Matrix-style all-female assassin martial arts movie to watch. Banzai!

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originally posted: 05/29/03 09:07:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/21/06 malcolm did i miss something? i've seen waaay better movies from korea than this. 3 stars
8/29/06 K.Sear A beautiful dream-like piece that brought tears to my eyes multiple times. 5 stars
7/16/05 Spellbound Unforgettable Last Tango in Paris...that great! 5 stars
2/02/05 Mark McConnell This film is incredible and I have not seen as powerful a silent performance since pacino 5 stars
9/22/03 Nudie I laughed, I cried, I cringed 5 stars
7/20/03 dcote typical extreme oriental amoral cinema 3 stars
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  26-May-2003 (NR)



Directed by
  Kim Ki-Duk

Written by
  Kim Ki-Duk

  Cho Jae-Hyun
  Seo Won
  Choi Duk-Moon

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