Bad Guy (2000) Review

"Bad Guy" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Bad Guy" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Writer: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Lee Seung-Jai
Cast: Cho Je-Hyun, Seo Won, Kim Yoon-Tae, Choi Duk-Moon, Choi Yoon-Young, Shin Yoo-Jin, Kim Jung-Young
Running Time: 100 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A vigorous-looking man (Cho Je-Hyun) notices a beautiful college girl (Seo Won) waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up. The man walks up and sits besides the girl, turns his head and just stairs at her – no facial expression of any sort, just an ice-cold stare that may hint an instant obsession. The woman glances back to him, quickly gives him a look of annoyance, gets up, and walks away. The boyfriend arrives shortly after the woman departs the bench where the peculiar man still sits and continues to look at her.

As the couple walks away, the estranged man barges in between them, unlawfully grabs the girl and kisses her. As his tongue is deep down her throat, the girl’s boyfriend does everything he can to stop the maniac, which includes smacking him on the back with a sidewalk ashtray – it doesn’t phase him. All of the sudden, the man lets her go. The boyfriend continues to pound him on the face. The man takes the punches and calmly walks away without defending himself. The girl yells at the man as he leaves, demanding an apology. Ignoring the girl, the man walks off into a group of curious spectators who had just witnessed the bizarre scene…

The scene just described is the opening to “Bad Guy,” the first film that I’ve seen by Kim Ki-Duk, an award-winning director known for his bizarre, controversial and violent work; such as “Real Fiction”, “The Isle” and “Alligator.” I’ve done a little research on Kim Ki-Duk, and from what I’ve gathered, he can easily be recognized as one who parks his car in the same garage as Takeshi Kitano, Abel Ferrara and a little bit of Takashi Miike – all, a group of talented filmmakers who are no strangers to disturbing themes.

The better way to describe Kim Ki-Duk’s filmmaking style is rawness and grit, but with a larger eye for surrealism and dream-like melancholy. In the case of “Bad Guy,” the fine line between fantasy and truth can be absurd to the viewers. Basically, as straight-forward as the film is, it throws you off with unexplained visuals that were intentionally meant to short the hell out of our thinking caps.

The opening sequence is one of the most intriguing I’ve seen in recent times. However, the rest of the film doesn’t hold up as well, which shouldn’t be a surprise to most. As the film goes on, it quickly switches into a tale of a woman forced into prostitution to pay off her debts. What we see is sad and almost unbearable considering the reasons she’s in this position to being with. It’s definitely an interesting look into the world of prostitution and gives us a crash course idea on how the underground hooker-ring works in some foreign places.

Also in the mix is the story of a man whose intentions are never quite clear. It doesn’t help that his written character doesn’t speak (a scar on his neck hints that his throat was slashed in the past) nor does he show any kind of facial expressions, unless he’s angry. Is he obsessed? Does he have feelings? Does he get off on watching women lose their virginity to strangers? Towards the film’s ending, it appears that we’re finally able to figure out what the man’s deal was, but just as we think we do, we’re put back to square one. All this leaves us with a “huh?” as the credits begin to roll. Maybe it was the director’s intention to keep us thinking. If it was, it was almost to the point of ridicule.

All the performances are satisfactory. Cho Je-Hyun comes across as a silent James Russo-type. The beautiful, and I mean beautiful, Seo Won gets the job done. However, something tells me that the two leads were limited to giving their all, due to the script and direction.

I look forward to seeing more of Kim Ki-Du’s work. As for “Bad Guy,” I certainly would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. If it weren’t for the many unexplained tidbits, it could have easily been a favorite of mine. All I can say is let your imagination flow.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 7/10

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