A Bittersweet Life (2005)


 Genre: Action, Crime, Drama













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

More media about The Last Stand

Click me I am huge!















As a follow up to recent first look at Jee-woon Kim new Hollywood project The Last Stand, this is the new poster provided by filmmakers, courtesy of IGN, and I must say it's much, much better and badass than the one originally revealed, which you can see in other post.

Also alongside this new poster, one more picture from the movie is shown, making it two, hopefully trailer or more media will follow soon as I am really excited about this movie.


Plot summary from Wikipedia:
Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sheriff of the quiet US border town of Sommerton Junction after leaving the LAPD following a bungled operation. Following his escape from the FBI, a notorious drug baron, his gang, and a hostage are heading toward Sommerton Junction where the police are preparing to make a last stand to intercept them before they cross the border. Owens is reluctant to become involved but ultimately joins in with the law enforcement efforts.
Movie is due to release in January 2013 and beside Arnie stars Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Peter Stormare and Genesis Rodriguez.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Western














You would not really expect a western movie from South Korea, especially a remake of one of the most famous Spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone, but here it is. The Good, The Bad, and The Weird (Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom) directed by talented Jee-woon Kim.

Set in Manchurian desert during 1930's, story as title suggests involves three central figures and a valuable map. The Good (Woo-sung Jung) bounty hunter is after The Bad (Byung-hun Lee), cold-hearted bandit and hitman, who is hired for a mission to steal a treasure map from Japaneses officials traveling by train, but after derailing the train, before he can get his hands on it, The Weird (Kang-ho Song) manages to snatch it and run off. Japanese Imperial Army is not happy and is on a mission to recover the map.


A good humored movie with plenty of epic shootouts and crazy chases across the desert, featuring motorcycles, horses, army vehicles and cannons. Everything can be found in this movie, almost non stop action full of  explosions, knife fights, machineguns and brawl fights and the iconic Mexican standoff saved for the end.

Director Jee-woon Kim has once again picked two his long time collaborators for lead roles, sharp and charismatic Byung-hun Lee as anti hero, Kang-ho Song who with his humorous facial expressions and behavior is perfectly matched to play the weird one. Woo-sung Jung chosen for the role of the bounty hunter manages to bring that sincere lawfulness and determination in his rendition of classic good guy, a good face among the bunch of thieves and murderers.

Big budgeted, exciting and stylish adventure that is highly entertaining and definitely a must see film from Korea.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.
Blu-ray (UK) | DVD (R2 Collector's Box) from YesAsia.

First look at The Last Stand (2013)


Here is first look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his first lead role since 2003, from the set of The Last Stand. You wonder why I am posting it here? The reason is that this movie is directors Jee-woon Kim (who is known for such fantastic films as I Saw the Devil, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and A Bittersweet Life) Hollywood debut.

With him, responsible for production, is his long time associate cinematographer Ji-yong Kim, so there already can't be any doubts about visual quality of this movie.

Similar to Jee-woon Kim, another Korean virtuoso of directing, Chan-wook Park is currently involved in his own Hollywood debut - Stoker.

There haven't been many successful Asian directors making transition to Hollywood, so it will be really interesting to see how well they will perform there.

Film's premise from Wikipedia:
Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sheriff of the quiet US border town of Sommerton Junction after leaving the LAPD following a bungled operation. Following his escape from the FBI, a notorious drug baron, his gang and a hostage are heading toward Sommerton Junction where the police are preparing to make a last stand to intercept them before they cross the border. Owens is reluctant to become involved but ultimately joins in with the law enforcement efforts.
Movie is set to  be released in early 2013.

I Saw the Devil (2010)

Genre: Crime, Horror, Drama, Thriller











I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boatda) is movie by one of my favorite directors - Jee-woon Kim, featuring, as he often does in his movies, two of the finest actors Korea has to offer Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi in a grotesque and suspenseful thriller involving serial killer(s).

Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee) works a secret agent in South Korean government, his fiance is kidnapped and brutally murdered by serial killer. Using his connections and skills he quickly comes upon Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), but instead of unleashing his revenge right there on the spot, he decides to bring prolonged suffering against the man who took his love away, to show him what amount of pain one has to suffer after such a loss. A cat and mouse game begins. But is it a game worth playing for Kim Soo-yeon?


This movies is driven with pure, distilled vengeance, a theme that is really common and well portrayed in Korean cinema. Both actors are great for their roles, you can see pure evil in the eyes of  Min-sik Choi character, and how good and evil starts to stir and mix somewhere deep inside eyes of his adversary played by Byung-hun Lee.

Prior to theatrical release in South Korea it was twice refused acceptable rating for showing in cinemas, forcing Jee-woon Kim to cut around 90 seconds of footage before it was accepted. That's how disturbing this movies is.

As with The Chaser, it's another masterpiece about serial killers from Korea. If you enjoy movies like Se7en, Vengeance trilogy and such, there is no reason why you should't watch this one.

Highly recommended.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.
Bly-ray (UK) | DVD (UK) from YesAsia.