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  Bad Guy  
Korean: 나쁜 남자
Seo Won and Cho Jae-Hyun

  Year: 2001  
  Director: Kim Ki-Duk  
Producer: Lee Seung-Jae
Writer: Kim Ki-Duk
  Cast: Cho Jae-Hyun, Seo Won  
  The Skinny: Who's the Bad Guy? The main character Han-gi, director Kim Ki-duk, or people who show intolerance towards different ways of life (or filmmaking?) If you have enough patience and an open mind (and you're not a hardcore feminist), this could be one of the more rewarding experiences of the year.  
by LunaSea:

The usually reliable Sight & Sound called Kim Ki-duk someone who hides exploitation behind arthouse pretensions. Or, in less closet-conformist words, he's someone who pushes boundaries much more than arthouse purists can imagine (or sometimes bear), thus creating polarized opinions. The Isle, Real Fiction and Address Unknown are all uncompromising works, which require an open mind towards filmmaking style. Kim is never afraid to juxtapose beauty with brutality, or vulgarity with touching, delicate moments. He's also very instinctive in his approach towards storytelling. His plots are never obvious, often uneven but more importantly, always possessing of raw emotional power. Bad Guy is one of his best films, and perhaps the one featuring the best balance of the two worlds, beauty and brutality. Also, its message might be more accessible than Kim's previous works.

We're introduced to Han-gi (Jo Jae-hyoun) and Sun-hwa (Seo Won) in a shocking manner: while talking with her boyfriend, Sun-hwa gets assaulted by the menacing Han-gi, forcing a kiss on her. It turns out Han-gi, touched by her beauty, is trying to recruit her to become a call girl in a Red Light District. The film explores the bond that forms between the two, developing the characters and their personality. Han-gi at first seems like a reject of society. He never speaks, bears a menacing look, has no manners, and has no interest in people's feelings. However, he's more complex than that as his current behavior is the result of emotional turmoil and negative past experiences. At first, Sun-hwa loves to hate him, but she finds out soon that he is different from what she expects.

The film speaks a lot in metaphorical terms, and often defies realism and logic. But - and this is the strength of the film - Kim Di-duk loves his characters, and creates something that hits emotionally as much, if not more, than conventional melodrama. His characters are flawed, but empathy soon turns into sympathy because at heart one can relate to them.

Sensitive viewers could be turned off by the extreme ways in which Kim develops the characters. He presents a relationship based on raw instincts, which could just as easily be mistaken for abuse. But, Kim's interest is in exploring the fact that there's beauty in what we consider "ugly" or "bad". It's just up to us to find it and appreciate it. The fact that Sun-hwa willingly continues to prostitute herself after getting to know Han-gi seems to to be a detail that objectifies women, but I see it as emotional fulfillment. She finds someone who is really interested in her and connects emotionally with her, and for once not only because she's beautiful. And even if she may not like the consequences of a relationship with him, the feeling between them is too important for her to give up.

Both leads are excellent, giving multi-faceted performances that make their characters real, even if the premise may lead you to think otherwise. This is a film that works more on facial expressions and emotional release than dialogue. One scene in particular, where Han-gi finally speaks, is incredibly powerful, and does more to redeem the character than anything else could do. The film features unusual, but interesting musical choices (a song in Italian, the end credits one in German, which if anything reveal the director's European influences), and Kim's usual flair for great visual composition. He creates a tone that's never too intrusive - both in the more extreme sexual scenes as well as the violent ones - and is more interested in the emotional consequences of the act instead of voyeurism. Bad Guy shows Kim Di-duk has improved over the years. His films are becoming more polished, interesting and emotionally involving. (LunaSea 2002)

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
CJ Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Director Commentary
Other Extras
*Also available on Blu-ray Disc
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  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen