Iam a huge fan of south Korean cinema and as per me they are making some of the best movies in world at present. A Bittersweet Life falls in that “some of the best” category itself and is one of my favourite movies of last decade. Released in 2005, A Bittersweet Life is what South Korean cinema does better than anyone else, making stylish gangster films and add to this the revenge theme and you get an absolute classic. Written and directed by Kim Jee-woon and starring one of the most famous south Korean actor Lee Byung Hun, this movie is am absolute visual treat for the fans of all genres. Movie also tries and incorporates themes of spirituality and the uncertainty associated with ones life.
A mid level mob enforcer, played by Byung Hun Lee is a fast rising star in South Korea’s underworld and handles a major hotel for his boss. He changes when he is asked by his boss to spy on his young girlfriend who he fears is having an affair with someone else. Lee is told to keep an eye on her and is assigned with her as her escort. Lee catches her with her lover but decides to let them go with a warning which proves to be a life changing mistake. He is then taken in and tortured by his gang members on the orders of his boss. Lee is stunned and doesn’t understand what he did. He is buried alive and left for dead.
He survives and escapes after one of the most memorable hand to hand combat scene ever shot and plans to take them all head on. He just wants to know why his boss did that this to him which destroyed his life. With some of the most intense fight scenes and some of the most beautifully shot close ups explaining the futility of ones life, this Korean revenge thriller is a modern noir. Lee gives perhaps his best performance and this was the movie which made him one of the few grade A stars in Korea.
Strong performances as a crazy rival gang boss, a coke snorting meth head fellow mob enforcer also helped. A Bittersweet Life to be the movie it ended up as. Brilliantly written and directed by Kim Jee-woon , the movie easily rises above the rest due to directors’ brave approach and his attention on visual design and cinematography. Lee speaks very little during the movie but the lines he speaks make a lot of impact. He comes across as a sincere hard working guy caught who you cant help but feel for but at no stage you get the feeling that he is helpless. In some ways this character of his is almost similar to the one he played in “I Saw The Devil”, the movie which gave him the most recognition worldwide. But trust me A bittersweet Life is a much superior movie to I saw the devil without and I saw the devil was a pretty unbelievable movie itself.