Starring: Jo Jae-Hyeon, Seo Won
Director: Kim Gi-Deok
Studio: Enter One (Korea)
About This DVD
As with its catchy title, Bad Guy, the poster for director Kim Gi-Deok's latest film easily captures a person's curiosity. It shows a completely naked, curvaceous body of a woman, who sits with her back to the viewer. She's holding up a mirror, but its reflection does not show her face; instead, it shows that of a man standing behind her. The poster gives viewers the sneaky yet satisfying sense of being voyeurs, peeping secretly into what they are not supposed to see.
The blood-red drapes and olive-green plush couch in the poster create an exotic ambience, lulling viewers into anticipation of an exotic and erotic love story. Yet those expecting such fare will get a rude shock. The first scene, in which a man forcibly kisses a woman, is enough for the audience to realize that this might not be quite what they had bargained for.
Of course, it is probably safe to say that most people would not expect a conventional love story; Kim Gi-deok, whose filmography includes The Isle and Address Unknown, has a rather well-known signature style that mixes bizarreness and vulgarity with violence and brutality.
Han-ki (Jo Jae-hyeon), the leader of a third-rate gang in a red-light district, sees Son-hwa (Seo Won), a pretty, vivacious college student, on the street waiting for her boyfriend, and draws near as if fascinated. When she throws him a glance filled with contempt and disgust, he violently forces a kiss on her.
After being beaten up and spit on, Han-ki, filled with seething rage and a bloodthirsty craving for vengeance, spins a diabolical plan to turn the girl into a prostitute. His scheme succeeds, and Han-ki then watches Son-hwa rapidly descending into physical and mental degradation through a mirror/window in a secret room next to hers.
The storyline alone, decidedly not ˇ°politically correct,ˇ± is shocking, and enough to send feminists on the warpath. But there's more. Not only does Son-hwa become resigned to her fate, she grows accustomed to the role (sometimes even enjoying the sex), and falls into a love-hate relationship with Han-ki, the man responsible for her ruin.
This movie may leave audiences - especially the female portion, as it is clear that the movie is presented from a male viewpoint - with a bitter taste in their mouths. It seems ample reason to declare that it is not Han-ki, but director Kim, who is the "bad guy" in this film. On his part, however, the director has said that his film is rather focused more on the inevitability and unexpectedness of fate than anything else.
But it seems a bit perverse to call it fate when someone intentionally traps another person into prostitution. It is almost as absurd as someone killing a man on the street and coolly saying that it was his destiny to die.
It also seems unjustifiable to talk about destiny when Son-hwa hardly attempts to escape from her "fate"; it is disturbing to see how easy her fall is from a confident college student to a desolate prostitute. In fact, it is a bit too easy to be believable.
The audience will wonder why the girl does not turn to her parents or the police for help, and how the gutsy girl who spits in a man's face for violating her can transform so abruptly into an acquiescent girl who sullenly accepts her fall from grace. That is, unless the definition of destiny includes docile acquiescence to whatever life doles out for you.
If one starts to fixate on a rational explanation, however, their enjoyment of the movie will be greatly diminished. This film is more of an allegorical tale of love, hate, violence and despair.
To Han-ki, Son-hwa, who is from a higher social class that he has been barred from all his life, is an ideal that hovers out of his reach. For him, her disdain embodies society's poor treatment of him, so the act of turning her into a prostitute is his way of lashing out at society, defiantly proving that if he cannot reach the unattainable, he will drag it down to his level, with brute force if necessary.
But it is Han-ki who suffers for his act, almost as much as Son-hwa herself. He is ravaged by guilt and feelings of love toward the girl whose life he has ruined. His is a strange, sadomasochistic love that is intricately intertwined with contempt and self-loathing - distorted and unconventional, but poignant nonetheless.
Although the bare synopsis of the story will be offensive to many, it is admittedly worthwhile to see how director Kim endeavors to weave an intense, riveting tale of love and hate out of the threads of sexual, physical violence and sordid settings.
Also, Cho's acting seems almost inspired. Having thrown himself into the role, he succeeds in garnering sympathy and compassion for the "bad guy" Han-ki. What's more, he accomplishes this only with facial and body gestures, as he has just one line throughout the whole movie.
Yet another strong point of the film is its striking visuals. The mirror - a perpetual metaphor of introspection and duality, and also a symbol of the walls between the two characters in this movie - is used often to create powerful imagery, such as in the scene where Han-ki's and Son-hwa's faces are shown overlapped in it.
|Audio Format:||DD 5.1 Surround|
|Video Format:||Widescreen 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)|
|Special Features:||- Making of Film
- Photo Gallery
- Director's and Cast's Commentary
- Production Note
- Staff & Cast Profile
- Staff & Cast Interview
- Sound Track
- Easter Egg
- Music Clip