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Korean Action Crime Drama

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His Life Really Is Bittersweet

  • Mar 29, 2007
I just can't get enough of these Korean revenge films because they're just so different and unique from your normal revenge plot. Now of course a film like this or one of the films from Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance trilogy" won't be appreciated by all simply because some may think they go to far with the amount of violence. It really depends on what your limit is but I had no problem with any of these films.

Sun-woo is a mob enforcer and a darn good one, as you'll see in the beginning. While eating desert in the restaurant he manages Sun-woo is alerted that there is a disturbance downstairs. Sun-woo quickly grabs someone (Min-gi) to help handle the situation. Three men are refusing to leave so Sun-woo tells them they have three seconds to leave and starts counting down. When he gets to 1 he tells Min-gi to lock the door. It's a little hard to explain what happens after the door is locked but let's just say Sun-woo handles the situation. Sun-woo has been working for his boss Kang for seven years and has not made a mistake in all those years but everyone makes a mistake at least once in their life. Being in the mob he knows that he can't mess up but what happens is something that he couldn't help.

Come to find out the three men Sun-woo beat up were men from a rival mob family. This was not Sun-woo's only problem; actually this situation only provides half of the story's plot. While avoiding to talk to the boss of the rival family Sun-woo is asked to do something important for his boss. Kang has a mistress (Hee-soo) and suspects that she is seeing another man. Because of the age difference Kang believes that she is tired of him and is seeing a younger man. He asks Sun-woo to watch her for three days while he is away on business. Not only does he have to watch her but also he has to drive her and basically be attached to her hip. If he does find that she is seeing someone else Sun-woo is to either call Kang or take care of it himself. Sun-woo starts to fall for the girl and when he finds that she was unfaithful he can't finish the job.

After all this Sun-woo is caught by the rival family and that's when the good stuff starts. The film just goes crazy, after a few events I won't tell cause I don't want to spoil the film but after them Sun-woo goes on a revenge spree. No matter how bad the pain gets Sun-woo refuses to say sorry or show any remorse for any of the things he's done. He won't stop until he sees the situation to the end and let me tell you he definitely does. For the rest of the film it gets very nasty and bloody for Sun-woo and the men that have wronged him.

I was amazed to see Lee Byung-Hun (Addicted, Everybody Has Secrets) in this film, he did great fight sequences and just an overall perfect performance. The acting in this film was great, very realistic and believable but not over the top. The settings and picture were beautiful, great camera work and very good sound quality. I liked that Sun-woo felt like a real person. At the end when he confronts everyone he seems like a person that has been very hurt and insulted over the reasons he's been attacked. I didn't really see any flaws in A Bittersweet Life but some people will for their own reasons, which I do understand. I do hope that nobody takes this film as trying to bite off of Chan-wook's trilogy because you'll miss out. It's definitely not as complex as the trilogy but at the same time it has its own style and feel to it. Anyone that just wants to see a good film with a simple plot then I definitely encourage you to see this.

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More A Bittersweet Life reviews
review by . April 11, 2011
I knew I’d seen Byung-hun Lee before.  He starred as “Storm Shadow” in G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, and, with what little he was given in that tent-pole summer film from director Stephen Sommers, he did a masterful job, so much so that I knew I’d see him again.  Little did I expect that it would be in a film he had done before G.I. JOE, back in 2005’s A BITTERSWEET LIFE.       Despite its more popular conventions, LIFE is a bit of …
review by . January 05, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
At first impression, it would be easy to dismiss director Kim Jee-Woon's (A Tale Of Two Sisters) film as another revenge thriller from South Korea in the same vein as Park Chan-Wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" and just another John Woo affair such as "The Killer" and "Hard-Boiled". I wouldn't bother writing a new review if this was just a typical revenge flick. "A BITTERSWEET LIFE" (2005) is a dazzling neo-noir gangster film that is a "cardboard" …
review by . April 03, 2007
posted in ASIANatomy
In the same vein as "Oldboy" comes "A Bittersweet Life," a movie so good it shocked me when watching it for the first time. It's a violent revenge movie with a gripping story with some fantastic actors such as Byung-hun Lee. He stars as Seon-woo, an enforcer for President Kang, a very dangerous man and if he wants to get rid of people, Seon-woo is the one taking care of it. The most interesting thing about this movie besides the story being so great is Seon-woo himself. The way Byung-hun Lee has …
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Keith A Jones ()
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A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng) (Hangul: 달콤한인생) is a 2005 South Korean film by Kim Ji-woon. Highly cultural and ruthlessly violent, it illustrates the ethical codes in the Korean mob and how they clash with personal morality.


Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is an enforcer and manager for a hotel owned by a cold, calculating crime boss, Kang (Kim Yeong-cheol), to whom he is unquestionably loyal. The two share concerns over business tensions with Baek Jr., a son from a rival family, which is when Kang assigns Sun-Woo what is perceived (at first) to be a simple errand while he is away on a business trip — to shadow his young mistress, Heesoo (Shin Min-a), for fear that she may be cheating on him with another, much younger man, with the mandate that he must kill them both if he discovers their affair. As he performs his duty — following Heesoo, and escorting her to a music recital one day — he becomes quietly enthralled by the girl's beauty and innocence, as glimpses into his lonely, empty personal life become more prevalent.

When he does come to discover Heesoo's secret lover directly in her home, he fiercely beats him, but seeing the girl's traumatized state causes him to take pause, pulled by his attraction to her. He thus spares the two on the condition that they no longer see each other again, causing her to harbour enmity towards him, despite the fact he had saved their lives at his own expense.


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