One late autumn night, the disciple awoke crying. So the master asked the disciple, "Did you have a nightmare?" "No." "Did you have a sad dream?" "No," said the disciple. "I had a sweet dream." "Then why are you crying so sadly?" The disciple wiped his tears away and quietly answered, "Because the dream I had can't come true."
Before I write anything more about A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng) I have to say that it is one of my most favorite movie ever, not just from South Korean, but cinema in general. A masterpiece by Jee-woon Kim that made me fall in love with his work, and opened my eyes to many amazing films his countryman produce. It swept away awards from many Asian film festivals and got positive critical response from western audiences, but still remains unknown to most viewers that are unfamiliar with Asian cinema.
Sun-woo (Byung-hun Lee) is right hand Mr. Kang (Yeong-cheol Kim), who is a boss of major crime syndicate. For years he has served loyally and without a fault to his employer, and now he has high level hotel complex under his strict management.
During one meeting, Mr. Kang, reveals to him that he has a mistress, a young girl named Hee-soo (Min-a Shin), and while he goes on a trip, he asks for a favor from Sun-woo, to keep an eye on a girl, and see if she is cheating on him. A seemingly easy task that goes sour, when Sun-woo discovers that she is in fact unfaithful to Mr. Kang. Unsure what to do, as his loyalty starts to crumble, Sun-woo decides to keep his findings secret...
Movie so full of style and coolness factor, carried by it's star, brilliant and famous Korean actor Byung-hun Lee, yet it has so much substance beneath it all to think about when credits roll. Suspenseful crime thriller, with noirish undertones, featuring that type of lone protagonist, found in many great movies like Le Samurai with Alain Delon.
Director Jee-woon Kim doesn't just stop there, fantastic cinematography, amazing camera work, with many new takes on action scenes, that all feature brilliant choreographing. A memorable scenes, characters, and bit of directors trademark brutal violence to make it proper gangster movie. And to seal the deal, incredible soundtrack, that I find myself listening to quite often.
A gem of Korean cinema. Must see.
DVD from Amazon
Blu-ray (Directors Cut) from YesAsia