August 19, 2015

No Tears for the Dead: God Bless the Assassinated Child

No Tears for the Dead is a movie plagued by bad guys. The anti-hero is an assassin (Jang Dong-gun) who mistakenly kills a young girl (Kang Ji-woo). The young girl's mom (Kim Min-hee) is a greedy capitalist more concerned with mergers and acquisitions than maternity. The assassin's best friend (Brian Tee) has been assigned to kill him. The best friend's father figure is a kind of merciless godfather who seems to want everyone to die. And so on and so on. Even the little girl who gets offed in the opening scene is a bad girl when you come to think of it. I'm sure, her criminal father told her not to leave the table at the nightclub, and clearly, she disobeyed.

I'm a bad guy, too. Which isn't to say that I've murdered anyone or purposely executed any business deals with utter disregard to the large numbers of people who'd lose their jobs in the process. But I've definitely got my own list of sins to weigh me down so a cast full of reprehensible people trying to do right by their wrongs sits perfectly fine with me. I get the idea of going to extremes — explosions in buildings, machine gunfire, computer hacking gazillions of dollars, identity theft — as forms of doing penance. We can't whip ourselves with branches anymore. We refuse to wear hair-shirts. So it makes sense that we'd randomly stab, detonate, self-annihilate, and relive awful memories of mom (Kim Ji-seong) committing suicide by shooting herself in the head in the desert as a way to clear our brains. At least in the movies.

In real life, I guess we just stew. And hope that filmmakers like Lee Jeong-beom will write and direct slick, thrillingly violent movies that make us feel like we're exorcising our demons, even if we're really just distracting ourselves from dealing with our grim, not-so-glamorous realities. Recently, I spent a few weeks watching Shirley Temple movies. She was the box office queen during the Depression. But nowadays, cute won't cut it. We need blood. So we sacrifice the on-screen child.

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