I told myself that I was going to stop watching movies by Ki-duk Kim after watching his latest film ‘Breath’ because I seriously don’t get this guy. The previous movies of the Korean director that I have seen, ‘The Isle’, ‘3-Iron’ and ‘Breath’ have left me dazed, confused, baffled and any other number of adjectives describing mental disarray that you can think of. But here we go with the directors film ‘Bad Guy’. When I add a movie to my lengthy Netflix cue, it usually won’t make it up to number one until months later and this was one of those that I got in the mail, completely unaware how it made it into my cue in the first place, read the synopsis (which was disturbing enough) and tossed it in the DVD player. After watching ‘Bad Guy’, particularly about the time the ‘porta-ho’ bus was introduced, I have decided that I have to stop watching this cat’s movies. ‘Time’ will be removed from my cue.
Sun Hwa (Won Seo) is a pretty college student minding her own damn business sitting alone in a public square waiting for her boyfriend. A rather crazed looking Han Ki (Jae-Hyeon Jo) spies her and almost instantaneously becomes obsessed with her. He takes a seat by her, she gets up and moves away – probably because he’s about one of the craziest looking sons of bitches I’ve ever seen – the boyfriend comes but Han ki inexplicably, in broad public, grabs her by the head and forcibly presses his lips against hers while her boyfriend, and a group of ROK soldiers attempt to forcibly remove him off the woman. After getting beat up pretty good, the soldiers try to force Han ki to apologize, which he refuses to do, Sun Hwa then spats in his face and heads on about her merry way.
Completely obsessed with this woman, Han ki follows her and sets her up, in a way, to take the fall for a pick pocketing charge. Sun Hwa it would appear has a larcenous
heart because if I found a wallet just sitting around in a book store I would return it to the front desk. Sun Hwa however takes the money out of the wallet, the owner demands payment of 10,000 dollars which she doesn’t have which will require her to get an unsecured loan she won’t be able to pay back, her only collateral being her pretty face and tight bod.
So there you go. The pretty virginal college student is now a prostitute working for Han ki the merciless pimp who has set up a two-way mirror so he can watch her get sexually brutalized night after night. At least until she actually starts enjoying being a prostitute. On the periphery there’s Han ki’s relationship with his fellow gang members, some strife with some competing gangsters and Sun Hwa’s relationship with her somewhat benevolent madam, but this film is all about the incredibly disturbing and unsettling ‘growth’ of the relationship between Sun Hwa and Han ki. Very disturbing.
Immediately after this movie went off I scurried to the DVD extras because there’s an interview with director Ki duk Kim I had to see. I need this cat to tell me SOMETHING about what he was trying to accomplish with this film. He gave me absolutely no illumination, so I’m stuck on my own to figure this thing out. I don’t know what a Korean woman did to this man, but it must have been something awful because he doesn’t seem to have a lot respect these ladies. From the self mutilation of the female lead in ‘The Isle’ from the destructive death row relationship nurtured by the female lead in ‘Breath’, but this was probably, no – definitely, the most disturbing of them all.
I’m don’t know how you would define Han ki’s pathology towards this woman as he would rather see her raped than give her the minor satisfaction of giving her virginity to her boyfriend. Over and over this woman is sexually brutalized under his watchful eye, and occasionally she would try to escape only to be caught and placed behind the glass window yet again. I’m also not quite sure what the passage of time was, but it’s not long, and eventually she decides that being a whore is her life, despite the fact that her captors at one point repeatedly try to set her free. By the time the movie ends, Sun Hwa seems to long for Han ki, who has suffered numerous stabbings that would have been fatal to most average humans, and is facing the hangman’s noose.
The final scenes of Han ki setting up a portable brothel for his ‘girl’ is just plain crazy. Is he telling me that Korean women are nothing but whores, serving no purpose outside of what fifty bucks can get you? Or perhaps Korean women are weak, in need of a pimp figure to guide them to their ‘destiny’, which in Sun Hwa’s case is whoring. Of course it could be that there is no message to interpret and this is just a story. I prefer to think that there is some message underneath the sickness of this flick because if this was just a story that Kim had to tell, then his misogyny is limitless.
‘Bad Guy’ is one of the most unpleasant films I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching. A movie that is filled with vile imagery and soulless brutality. I’m sorry Mr. Kim, though your talent is real and your skill level is high, your message isn’t getting through to me. I’m finished watching your work.