As many of you know, we here at JPFmovies have been bitching about the bankruptcy of American cinema for some time now. Holly Wood’s creative impoverishment is seen the trend that American studios and directors are now copying (or to use the polite term “re-making”) South Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Asian films in general instead of producing their own original films. Cases in point include: Spike Lee’s “re-making” the gritty South Korean film Old Boy (2003) (due sometime this year); Universal Studio’s and Keanu Reeves (based in all accounts) butchering of the Japanese classic tale of The 47 Ronin (due Xmas 2013); The Grudge (2004) a remake of the Japanese film Ju-on (2002); The Ring (2002) a remake of the Japanese film Ringu (1998); The Lake House (2006) with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves (again) a remake of the South Korean film Il Mare (2000); Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller The Departed (2006) which won an Academy Award for Best Picture is a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs (2002) (a far better movie); and The Hunger Games (2012) a rip-off of Battle Royale (2000), a Japanese film/novel that came out over ten years earlier. The list does not even include films like The Seven Samurai (1954) made by the “Emperor” Akira Kurosawa.
However The Last Stand (2013) goes against the grain. How could Kim Ji-woon, director of the outstanding film A Bittersweet Life (2005), make the wretched, rigidly formulaic The Last Stand? I am pretty sure that part of the problem was Kim Jee-Woon and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s what we shall term a failure to communicate. They literally could not speak each other’s language, relying on translators because Kim can’t speak English and Schwarzenegger’s heavy Teutonic accent. Another explanation is that Holly Wood has become so devoid of ability that it actually sucks the talent out of people who have it. When Kim’s plane landed in Los Angeles, it seems like he had a temporary lobotomy. Hopefully, on his way back to South Korea, Kim will regain his full facilities.
So let’s contrast Kim’s A Bittersweet Life with The Last Stand.
First we examine the impressive A Bittersweet Life.
Korean films have come a long way, evolving faster than any other industry in the world with quality and unique films. Coming from a director known for his offbeat films with sincere inclination towards action, violence and revenge, A Bittersweet Life is a film about life’s lessons. A lesson that clarifies, in life, irrespective of who you are, good or bad, you’re sure have to moments that are sweet and bitter in nature. These moments when put together become “A Bittersweet Life.”
Kim Sun-Woo is an enforcer working for the coldest, ruthless and calculating crime boss in the city. This crime boss has bestowed all his trust upon Kim and considers him the loyal disciple. One fine afternoon, he is summoned by his boss and instructed over lunch that he’s to take on an assignment. An assignment that should be kept very secretive and the developments in it should directly reach the boss at regular intervals. The boss is romantically involved with a woman who’s younger than half his age. He loves her genuinely however feels she may be cheating on him. He appoints Kim to investigate and tells him to finish her off if caught red handed. Unfortunately, at first sight, he falls for the boss’s girlfriend and also uncovers that she’s been cheating. However, he does not have the guts to pull the trigger on her, and therefore, lets her go off the hook. When the boss discovers, Kim becomes the immediate target. With boss’s entourage on his trail, Kim should run for his life but should return sooner or later to give his piece of mind back to people who betrayed him.
Korean films love to glorify violence like no other industry in the world. This is the Kind of violence that’ll make you love violence. I mean it! The best part is Koreans love to fight with swords, knives, sickles, machetes, hammers but not guns. So, it’s gruesome to see them chopping each other in the name of revenge. I suppose their idea of carrying these instruments instead of guns is to inflict as much pain as possible. Think about it and you’d be surprised that instead of putting a bullet in someone’s head, take a knife or something and start slashing them and the sadistic pleasure you get out of it is priceless, according to these Koreans.
In life, there are moments that are good, bad and bitter; it’s the mixture of these moments which completes life and gives it a meaning. Kim’s life had its share of sweet and bitter moments however he chose to let go off the former and take control of the latter. The time spent with his boss’s daughter are his sweetest moments while the repercussion it left upon his life turned all the sweet in to bitter moments, eventually, only giving him grief to live with.
Performances were outstanding and there’s hardly anything to complain. Stunts deserve a special mention and the credit goes to Doo-Hong Jung for keeping stunts top class and highly professional. In short, A Bittersweet Life leaves you with one thought to ponder over. Life gives you good and bad but it’s your ability to choose wisely instead of dwelling on one.
Next we’ll look Kim’s The Last Stand and hope it is Kim’s last American movie.