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Korean Film by Kim Ki-Duk (3-Iron)

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Surreal, Engaging and Thought-Provoking; May Well Be One of Kim Ki-Duk's Best

  • Jan 8, 2009

I'm a fan of Kim Ki-Duk's work, granted he has a somewhat of an "outcast" director image in South Korea but his films never fail to engage me or even "warp" me into another marginalized world. It's small wonder that Kim's works enjoy more success abroad than in his native land. The magic of his film-making is that he takes the viewer to understand how certain worlds operate and how his characters set their rules that apply to that world. "BAD GUY" is a different approach to his film-making. The imagery in this film is somewhat disturbing to some viewers; I'm certain that some may feel insulted by the proceedings but I assure you, this film will not fail in engaging the viewer.

Sunhwa is a young college student sitting on a bench while she waits for her boyfriend. Han-Gi is a misfit who notices the young lady in fascination. Upon her boyfriend's arrival, Han-Gi grabs Sunhwa and forcefully kisses her on the lips. Her boyfriend tries to pry her from his arms unsuccessfully until the police arrive. She angrily slaps him and spits on his face when the cops finally pry her from Han-Gi's arms. Soon after, Han-Gi (Cho Jae-Hyun) stalks Sunhwa and her boyfriend until he manages to entrap her into a situation that she is heavily in debt and needs to sell her body to pay it back.


BAD GUY is pure challenging cinema and may present a degrading view of how some women are treated on-screen. I didn't particularly like the idea of how Sunhwa (Seo Won) was being treated in its proceedings. But I have to admit, there is a lot of honesty in its portrayal of the red light district in any part of the world. Some people may criticize the idea why Sunhwa would allow such a thing to happen to her but then again, this type of thing does happen. (Thankfully it just doesn't happen to anyone I know) BAD GUY explores the issue of prostitution and why some women are stuck in this profession. It is a study of obsession, social class, voyeurism and violent behavior; these are the themes one needs to focus on when watching this film otherwise, the viewer may get lost in the proceedings and think that the film is a sleazy sex movie.


Bad Guy is also an odd and twisted love story. I thought Han-Gi's entrapment of Sunhwa was his reaction to the hopelessness of his social level; he thinks that he would never be able to attain a woman of Sunhwa's status. In his twisted way, he felt as if to be able to have a chance of her falling for him, he has to lower her social status. I know it's sickening; which is why "Bad Guy" is twisted and quite frankly disturbing. While the film's main focus is Han-Gi; a disturbed pimp, at times it is cerebrally engaging but I thought it is a sick and a sinister tease.

The central character of the film is Han-Gi. The events and Sunhwa's fate unfold with his scheming and manipulations. Like most of Kim's characters; he hardly says a word. This move is very effective as it makes all the characters in the film uncomfortable around him as well as the viewer. The audience has to watch a film with a very unlikable character who is committing all these obscene acts as the main focus for the most of the film's proceedings. Han-Gi is a character bereft in irony and contradictions; he beats up Sunhwa's clients when they become too abusive, he watches her behind a one-sided mirror while she haves sex, he protects her from other pimps but he's the one who reduced her to a street hooker. It almost as if Kim Ki-Duk is challenging the viewer to see what is happening to Sunhwa and what the viewer thinks about it. All the terrible things that can break a woman happens to Sunhwa, which is just terrible. The film also shows a very unnerving study of her character as she begins to adapt to her terrible situation.

BAD GUY is definitely surreal and challenging. It is not very nice but darned if it wasn't engaging either. The film is visually stunning; it is full of irony and desperation. The red light district is definitely presented as a colorful but dry love-less area. Kim's camera angling also represents voyeurism as a subtle detail; he keeps the wide frame from a distance and always give the viewer a feeling that he is watching through a fence or over any object. The film also symbolizes a reversal in Han-Gi and Sunhwa's situation whenever he watches her through a one-way mirror. It's Han-Gi reversing their positions in his twisted mind.

Despite its faults, some themes seem a bit over-zealous and the very nasty disturbing images of violence and rape, Bad Guy is engaging cinema. I rather found the experience to be a bit unnerving but I do appreciate themes of darker nature. The third act of the film may puzzle some viewers as to why; but if you were paying attention for the film's entirety, you won't even wonder. Always keep in mind, Kim focuses on the how his audience will interpret his views. Most of the time, he shows uncompromising honesty in his message that last after the end credits.

RECOMMENDED! (timidly) -[4 Stars]



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April 26, 2011
"his films never fail to engage me or even "warp" me into another marginalized world", love that WP. Great review once again man.
More Bad Guy reviews
Quick Tip by . May 17, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
One of the more emotional, disturbing films that Kim Ki-Duk has ever written and directed. An odd love story that brings two people; how sometimes we cannot seem to express our feelings due to our insecurities and yet reducing someone that we like to our level seems to aid in our attempts in communicating with them.      Kim Ki-Duk is one of the more controversial directors of Korea. His films are not for everyone but no one can deny that they are original.      …
review by . April 16, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
I became curious for more films by Ki-duk-Kim, who has a reputation for delivering movies that are pretty edgy about relations between men and women. And this one is pretty edgy. Viewers are lured by a speech-impaired, low-class pimp Han-gi (Cho Je-Hyun) who after being attracted to middle-class college coed Sun-hwa (Seo Won) sitting on a park bench, violently kisses her in front of her boyfriend and then is beaten in public by a few soldiers and forced to apologize. After being spit on by Sun-hwa, …
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William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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