November 24, 2008

A Bittersweet Life: Payback Is Murder

Jopok means Korean mafia. But it also refers to a genre of movies dealing with same. Example: A Bittersweet Life, Kim Ji-woon's superfine and shiny genre flick about a slick bad-ass (Lee Byung-hun) whose career as a criminal hits the skids when he falls for the young lady (Shin Min-a) he's supposed to be shadowing. He discovers she's cheating on his boss (Kim Yeong-cheol) but he's so enamored of her shoulder and her ear that he can't bring himself to kill her even if she doesn't love him back. Anyway, who has time for love when you're just trying to survive. Gang members armed with knives, sticks, and wrenches, not to mention a sick imagination when it comes to torture, are everwhere you turn. That's when it's time to get creative. Dig your way out of your own muddy grave. Figure out a way to use a telephone battery as a weapon. Track down the underground of the underground and get yourself a black market Stechkin, a Russian automatic pistol. Whatever you do, don't let them break your spirit. Not when they tie you up. Not when they stab you in the gut. Not when they shoot you with an Uzi so blood is pouring out your front. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. But is this what he was talking about? Maybe. Because he also said an eye for an eye. And there's plenty of that here in technicolor.

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