An icily precise noir, A Bittersweet Life features Korean mega-star Lee Byung-Hyun as Sun Woo, the coldly vicious lieutenant to a leading gang boss, Kang. Loyal and trustworthy he runs a hotel and restaurant while also taking care of more questionable matters with his fists. He is so trusted that, when Kang begins to suspect his young lover is cheating on him, the task of trailing her to find out falls to Sun Woo, with only one instruction: if she is unfaithful, she dies. But when the moment comes, he can’t go through with it. His conscience, so long dormant, twinges and he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. This starts all involved on the path to destruction. Kang learns of the betrayal and attempts to have Sun taken out. Sun, for his part, responds the only way he knows how: with violence. This is a blood match now, and it will end only when one or the other dies.
In a country increasingly known for producing stylish genre films, South Korea’s Kim Ji-Woon has quickly emerged as one of the very brightest talents. His bleak comedy debut, The Quiet Family, won attention worldwide before being remade by Takashi Miike as The Happiness of the Katakuris. From there, Kim moved on to wrestling picture The Foul King, before cementing his reputation as one of the world’s premiere visual talents with the stunning atmospheric horror A Tale of Two Sisters. And now he returns with A Bittersweet Life. Kim’s latest is a stunning visual film, flawlessly composed, beautifully shot, and filled with scenes of shockingly coldhearted violence. It is the heroic bloodshed film gone arthouse, a John Woo film as executed by the bastard child of Wong Kar Wai and Park Chan Wook. Lee’s star has been burning bright since his star turn in Park’s JSA, a film that made him a major star throughout Asia, and he is now poised to invade America. This may very well be the film that makes his name here.
Director: Kim Ji-Woon
Screenplay: Kim Ji-Woon
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kim Young-chul, Shin Min-ah
Producers: Lee Yo-jin, Oh Jeong-wan
Distributor: CJ Entertainment