Remarkable acting, striking visuals, and dead-on direction from Kim Ki-Duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter?and Spring; The Isle) make BAD GUY an edgy tour de force. Kim submerges the audience in the underground world of Seou... more »l's red-light district and takes them on a surrealistic, darkly romantic ride. It depicts the relationship between a young college girl forced into prostitution and the pimp who orchestrated her demise and silently watches from behind a false mirror.« less
A Brutal Cinematic Tapestry Where Borders Dissolve...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 07/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ki-duk Kim delivers an inquisitive blow to the audience with his film titled Bad Guy. Here he intends to make the audience question whether humans can get along despite differences in class, education, appearance, and other social standards that the society creates. On the surface these differences might not be what the viewer discovers, but in retrospect, or maybe even during the film, the notion of harmony among human differences might emerge in consciousness. Nonetheless, Ki-duk Kim paints a cinematic tapestry of brutality and hatred that strikes deep into the soul and core of humanity.
Bad Guy is not unlike Ki-duk Kim's other films in regards to the symbolism and the artistic expression that this South Korean director strives to visualize on the silver screen. Yet, the situation is new and the story is unique even though he returned to teenage prostitution in Samaria (2004), the English title Samaria Girl. The depicted cruelty often finds its place in Ki-duk Kim's films, may be even a reason for his popularity. However, it is in the moment of viciousness where he generates the artistic moment that crosses between what is acceptable and unacceptable. These are moments where opposite sides cross into each other's sphere like a bridge built for a moment that is destroyed in the next instant. The violence can be seen in films such as the Isle (2000) where a woman pulls up a man by a fish hook and the dog killings in Address Unknown (2001). It is in these violent moments where Ki-duk Kim reaches the furthest while trying to communicate his message to the audience.
Cleverly, Ki-duk Kim opens Bad Guy with a scene of a city street where hundreds of of people are wandering during business hour. People are shown from all walks of life, ugly and pretty, rich and poor, and among them emerges the silent anti-hero of the story Han-gi (Jae-hyeon Jo) who discovers Sun-hwa (Won Seo). They are from opposite social classes. Han-gi comes from the lower class while Sun-hwa is a member of the upper class. Han-gi is a quiet, perhaps of his servitude class, pimp from the part of the town nobody admits they are from, or want to visit unless it is for carnal pleasure. Sun-hwa is the pretty college girl most men would turn their head to look at twice who is both refined and educated.
When Han-gi's eyes lands on Sun-hwa for the first time he cannot take them of her, as she sits on a park bench. He stands there dumbfounded almost drooling all over himself while observing her from a distance. Awkwardly, he approaches her and is unable to speak he sits down next to her. Sun-hwa steps away seemingly threatened by his stare and presence, and possibly his looks. After all he has a thick and long scar running horizontally over his throat. When her boyfriend arrives Han-gi continues to stare at her. All of a sudden Han-gi walks up and kisses her right in front of the boyfriend who helplessly tries to remove him. Consequently, the situation escalates when Sun-hwa demands an apology for Han-gi's transgression, which ends with him getting a severe beating from a large number of bystanders.
Like a ghost Han-gi returns to his home in the poor community where girls sell themselves for a few meager bucks while bribing off nosy police officers with their only assets. Angry and vindictive Han-gi intends to repay the mistreatment in a Machiavellian style where he concocts a trap where Sun-hwa gets into big debt. Unable to pay off the debt she ends up becoming a slave-like prostitute where she must pay with her body and face. Silently, Han-gi continues to watch her through a one-way mirror while she begins and continues her new life as a prostitute. This of course has strong symbolic value in regards to the transparency of the lower class's view of the upper class while the narcissism of the rich blinds them from seeing the poor.
Ki-duk Kim's presentation of the theme is a very uncomfortable cinematic experience, yet he succeeds through this tragedy to make people think about the differences between Han-gi and Sun-hwa. In addition, to strengthen his message he experiments with distance between the characters through both tangible and intangible symbols throughout the whole film. In essence, the story turns into a macabre education of class struggle and differences between people where Ki-duk Kim does not hold back in his social criticism. The film is both bizarre and surreal while also humane underneath all the ugliness, as Ki-duk Kim displays his brilliant ability to create visual fabrications from his personal artistic vision that will continue to mesmerize many for a long time."
A Potent And Brutal Story Of Psychological Degradation--"Bad
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 01/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having just seen the Korean film "Bad Guy," I am extremely impressed with its brutality. While that may seem like an odd comment, it has been quite a while since I've come across a film that really connected with its character's psychological dark sides. "Bad Guy" doesn't apologize or compromise in the choices (good, bad, violent, surprising) of its two leads, and in that--stands as a very honest, if unpleasant character study. I know many people will dismiss the film out of hand based on subject matter--that's fine, it's not for everyone. Other will question character motivations, which I think are brilliantly conceived. They are not, however, what we might expect or want. And I think detractors from the film are disturbed by the lead character's ultimate acceptance of her position (and make no mistake, it is disturbing), but from a psychological standpoint--it makes perfect sense, to me.
"Bad Guy" starts out with a powerful and violent street encounter. Han-ki, a street hardened pimp, becomes infatuated with an attractive young girl he spies on a park bench. Sitting next to her, he continues to watch her as her boyfriend arrives. Before leaving, as they have noticed and commented on his presence, he grabs her and gives her an extended (and rough) kiss--which leads to a confrontation with several passersby. But Han-ki can't get Sun-hwa, the college girl, out of his mind and starts to follow her. He eventually sets her up in a sting where she steals some money--and uses the leverage to force her into a world of prostitution to pay off the debt. As she learns the ways of her new world, many of these scenes are harrowing and graphic.
There is a lot that transpires as the film progresses--but the crux of the story continues to be this primary relationship. Han-ki, who is wordless and brooding, uses violence to speak for him. He is obsessed with Sun-hwa and secretly watches her debasement (sometimes protecting her, but ultimately letting her sink fully into this new life). Sun-hwa, whose attempts to escape have been unsuccessful, starts to accept her position--she has no alternatives. The Han-ki/Sun-hwa relationship is the film's strongest component--it is morally ambiguous, challenging, and hard to understand. But the man who has enslaved her is also the one that shows her kindness, protects her, never makes advances on her. In a bravura bit of acting, these two leads plumb psychological depths that few films would dare to embrace.
The film is not a perfect one, there is some added drama when an old boss is released from prison--and this adds some more conventionally violent showdowns. And the conclusion is very ambiguous, it is open to various interpretations. I've discussed this film with numerous friends and we have about 4 different views on the film's end--two of which are quite legitimate. I only warn you of the ambiguous ending because if that's going to deter you from seeing the film, you should know up front. But ultimately, "Bad Guy" has lingered in my mind. It's a powerful psychological study of an unpleasant topic and an unconventional relationship. Not for everyone, by any stretch, but if you like to be challenged--this might be up your alley. KGHarris, 01/07."
Kim on Human Nature and Humanity
Henry Owh | 04/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It has been said Kim has betrayed Koreans by making BAD GUY that showcases the Korean society in a dark and crimson light of seedy underworld of gangs, violence and prostitution. Their outrage, however, is misdirected. Kim has made a film that addresses a problem that goes beyond the simple reality of Korea, and into the heart of human nature and humanity.
If anyone is looking for something romantic here, it is Kim's notion that class distinction is an artificial construct, which shields us from seeing our true selves that would buy and sell one another's services to anyone interested--disgustedly at first, but then professionally. "
James L. Nammack | Lexington, Kentucky USA | 06/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie blew me away. It stripped away the sexual hysteria of our times, and went straight to the essence of human life. The bad guy of the movie arranges for a pretty college girl to be coerced into working in Seoul's red light district as a prostitute. At first it horrifies her, but over time and through a series of dramatic incidents, the college girl grows accustomed to her sex work, and also finds herself being drawn to the bad guy who put her there. The college girl's initial resistance to sex-for-pay eventually fades altogether, and becomes the catalyst for the relationship that she and the bad guy eventually share with each other by the end of the movie.
This summary horribly simplifies a terrific movie that has lots of twists and turns and dramatic psychological insights to it. I heartily recommend it to one and all.
It is a tragedy that we will never see movies like that made in this country."
Bad guy not bad movie just indifferent one
Andres C. Salama | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 01/25/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"One of those Korean director Kim Ki-duk's mannerist-minimalist films in which his raw brutality outweighs his workmanship. Basically, the plot has the title's Bad Guy (a brutal street pimp, actually), that is attracted to a pretty college girl sitting on a bench in a park. But college girl is not attracted to Bad Guy, who, by the way, never talks in the whole movie. And college girl already has a boyfriend. So, through a complicated scheme, Bad Guy is able to have her work in his brothel. Poor college girl is now a prostitute. But Bad Guy continues to be infatuated with her, and sees her work through a one way mirror. And this infatuation will let college girl eventually get the upper hand and (sort of) get even. Not exactly bad, but neither one of Kim's better films, who has done better than this (see instead Spring, Summer, Autumn... or 3-Iron)."