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The kiss in BAD GUY
Photo: Lifesize Entertainment

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BAD GUY (2001)
Directed & Written by: Kim Ki-duk.
Produced by: Lee Seung-jae.
Director of Photography: Hwang Chol-hyun.
Edited by: Ham Sung-won.
Music by: Park Ho-jun.
Released by: Lifesize Entertainment.
Language: Korean with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: South Korea. 100 min. Not Rated.
With: Jo Jae-hyeon & Seo Weon.

In downtown Seoul, Han-ki (Jo Jae-hyeon) notices Sun-hwa (Seo Weon) from the crowd and falls instantly in love. After taking her in with his piercing gaze, he parks himself next to her on a bench, which results in a startling establishing shot of class conflict - he, a degenerate gangland pimp and she, a well-groomed college girl. But soon Sun-hwa sneers at Han-ki's advance. Han-ki gets up as if to leave, but in the next instance he grabs Sun-hwa and forces her into a kiss. She demands an apology for the assault, and when Han-ki refuses, he is beaten by a group of soldiers. While he is restrained, Sun-hwa spits in his face as a final insult.

Soon after, however, Han-ki frames Sun-hwa for stealing a wallet filled with cash. The wallet's owner threatens her to pay a huge sum or she will be turned over to the police. With no money, she agrees to give up the rights to her body to pay off her debt, and eventually she becomes entrapped in Han-ki's brothel. As she goes through a harrowing training, Han-ki watches her through a two-way mirror. Yet Han-ki's expression, shown through a reflection, is not of sadism, but pain and torment. While men freely violate Sun-hwa, Han-ki does not even so much as try to touch her. When she leans against the mirror, Han-ki furtively kisses her tear-stained face from the other side. As in his earlier film The Isle (2000), the director focuses on a sadomasochist bond (Seo Weon also appears in that film). The degree of violence in Bad Guy, though, is relatively minor compared to the horrific The Isle.

Throughout Bad Guy Han-ki remains a character of enigmatic silence (his throat is marked with a long scar). With a performance that is completely facial, Jo Jae-hyeon conveys the inner sorrow of Han-ki and his destructive way of loving a woman. In Han-ki, Kim's Bad Guy presents an unforgettable character. However, director Kim Ki-Duk does have a tendency to leave scenes ripe with meaning unexplained, especially as the film takes a surrealistic turn, making the narrative plot fall short. Bad Guy will leave you with many haunting images, but with as many questions as well. Marie Iida
February 18, 2005



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