A Bittersweet Life (2005) — March 15, 2017
Kind of like Miller’s Crossing, but without all the plot, dialogue, or character. It’s a vehicle for surface-level emotions (love, pain, revenge), but Kim has great eye for cool and set-piece construction. He tends toward the gimmicky, the kind of camera placements Breaking Bad fans mistake for style, but at its best this plays like the film of a person who has seen a few Suzuki Seijun movies. Lee Byunghun gives it some much-needed humanity, and the moment we finally hear Shin Minah’s cello in the mix is heartbreaking.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) — December 30, 2010
An affectionate homage to the Spaghetti Western and the first film I’ve seen from director Kim Jeewoon. Set in Manchuria in the 1940s, the eponymous guys are all after a treasure map while trying to avoid the police, rival gangs of criminals and the Japanese army. The Good is a bounty hunter, The Bad is a badass hired killer, and The Weird is a comical thief. The film rollicks from massive action set-piece to massive action set-piece, rarely letting up for anything as boring as character development or plot complication. Fortunately, the action sequences are wonderfully done. Kim’s camera moves constantly, but never distractingly, and he maintains the integrity of his spaces better than most Hollywood action directors can manage. It’s a tremendously entertaining film, if not as audacious a take on the genre as Wisit Sasanatieng’s Tears of the Black Tiger.