“Love!? Love!? There’s no loving a scumbag!”
words: Desmond Childs
What is it about “bad boys” that make certain women go crazy? Is it because their “dangerous” or “exciting”? Or perhaps it’s the chance to get away from the “nice guys”. You know, the ones you get bored with and stash in your friend-zone? Well, listen: if the idea of your life being in danger appeals to you, I know just the guy…
“You ruin me…”
Man of man! This was a very interesting piece of work from director Kim Ki-Duk. It tries to do a little of everything too. We see a little comedy, albeit of the black variety. There’s definitely some intensifying action throughout this picture. If I can remember correctly there may have even been a little Stockholm syndrome used here too. What’s that? The Stockholm Syndrome isn’t a genre of film? I suppose you’re right, but it’s here, and Kim Ki-Duk tries to form a love story with it. And that is probably this movie‘s most “visible” loose thread.
The love story doesn’t make sense. You have a thug (who in the right light looks a lot like Vin Diesel) and a roguish university student. The beginning of the film sets the strange, creepy plot into motion and the two of them face-off, so to speak. Without spoiling anything, the thug (named Han-Ji) “enlists” the young woman (Sun-Hwa) into a brothel. Before this though, he “saves” her from an angry salary-man who caught Sun-Hwa stealing his wallet. It’s a good thing too. If Han-Ji hadn’t stepped in, Sun-Hwa would’ve owed this guy a lot of money. Too bad she’s taken out of the frying pan only to be thrown into the fire itself. Say everybody, quick question: Would you rather be in debt, up to your eyeballs? Or spend the rest of your life as a prostitute? Tough question I know, and unfortunately for Sun-Hwa, she really doesn’t seem to have much of a choice.
So the movie continues on and by this point it’s pretty clear that Han-Ji isn’t a good guy. He oversees a brothel with an iron fist, and whoever crosses him is usually beaten pretty badly. He also seems to enjoy peeping in on Sun-Hwa while she’s working. Which is already creepy enough, except he begins to start watching her sleep and when she showers…
Yeah, there are plenty of scenes filmed in “creep vision”. Not just Han-Ji either. In fact, pretty much anyone (Sun-Hwa included) the movie decides to spend more than two minutes with is unpleasant to be around. The movie does a good job painting an ugly, perpetual picture of how this brothel runs. Various events take place there throughout the course of the movie, but I don’t want to go into anyone in particular.
Instead, I want to focus on the character who the title is referring too: Han-Ji. You know he doesn’t talk until more than halfway through the picture. And on top of that, when he does finally speak, it’s a little bizarre to hear. I actually wanted to rewind my player to be certain that I didn’t mistake someone (off-screen’s) voice for his. But nope, it was him, and what he says sums up his character and what this movie is trying to do. The problem is, I wasn’t buying it. I did some reading up on the Stockholm syndrome a while back, and I purposely didn’t re-educate myself for this review. Why? Because the idea of it sends a shiver down my back. Another question for you, the reader:
I have taken away everything you love about life. I’ve stripped away all your relationships and dreams and replaced them with forced prostitution. I also like to watch you at all times throughout the day, as you slowly fade away in your germ-infested, rotting room. I seem to like you because you’re beautiful. But I don’t like you enough not to force this type of life on you (apparently). Now, tell me you love me!
I totally understand the way events unfold has a lot to do with why characters react the way they do. For whatever reason though, a part of me just did not agree with the way this story played out. Did I like the movie? It was a well made, well scripted, and finely scored. I liked how the action scenes were shot. I really liked the performances of Jae-hyeon Jo (Han-Ji) and Won Seo (Sun-Hwa). Heck the cast in general did a very nice job. But I wasn’t down with the story Kim Ki-Duk wanted to tell me. So with all that being said, I’ll never tell you it was a bad movie. I will say that the story left more to be desired. It’s also not something I’d recommend for the general audience. The movie really is about a bad guy, and it doesn’t really flinch in its depiction of sex or violence. I guess Bad Guy is as advertised, huh?