EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|GREEN FISH (CHOROK MULKOGI) (director/writer: Lee Chang-dong; screenwriter: Oh Seung-Wook; cinematographer: Yong-Gil You; editor: Kim Hyun; music: Dong-jun Lee; cast: Han Suk-Kyu (Makdong), Shim Hye-jin (Miae, nightclub singer), Moon Sung-Keun (Bae Tae-kon, gang boss), Myung Kye-Nam (Kim Yang-kil), Song Kang-Ho (Pan-su), Ji-hye Oh (Makdong's sister), Seong-kyu Han (Makdong's 2nd-eldest brother), Jin-yeong Jeong (Makdong's 3rd-eldest brother); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Yeo Kyun-Dong/Myung Kye-Nam; Pathfinder Pictures; 1997-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles)|
dark thriller from Seoul."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This unique dark thriller
from Seoul is the directorial
feature debut for
former screenwriter Lee Chang-dong ("Secret
Sunshine"/"Oasis"/"Peppermint Candy"). It's a crime drama filled with
unsympathetic characters (all are either corrupt or drunken cops,
sleazy or ruthless gangsters, mental or physical cripples, or just
dysfunctional family members), who are trapped by their big or small
Discharged 26-year-old soldier Makdong (Han Suk-Kyu) returns to his
single-mom's home in the outskirts of Seoul by train and when he sees
three thugs hassling a pretty lady, Miae (Shim Hye-jin), he steps in to defend her
honor and is beaten-up. When he reaches his mom's house, he's
displeased to discover the neighborhood changed with hi-risers due to
the thriving economy. Mom and his many siblings live in a dumpy house
in poverty, and though he has no skills he announces he will support
them. Miae calls to return the bag he left on the train, and Makdong
learns she's a nightclub singer in Seoul and is the mistress of a
small-time gang leader named Bae
Tae-kon aka Big Brother (Moon
Sung-Keun). Makdong decides to
live in Seoul and earn money to buy a restaurant for his family. After
beaten again by Big Brother's gang, Miae talks her boss into giving
Makdong a job working as a parking lot attendant. Makdong then is
hired to take a beating for his boss so he can blackmail a local
politician over a real-estate deal, and thereby is welcomed into the
crime family as Little Brother.
is a virgin, who the drugged-out and numbed Miae feels something for
and thinks she must teach him how to make love. But the young man is
out of his league in trying to make sense of his new family, especially
when he can't even deal with his own flesh-and-blood squabbling one. Miae and Big
Brother are locked into a sado-masochistic
relationship that Makdong can't
comprehend, and when rival bully gang leader Kim Yang-kil (Myung Kye-Nam) moves into Big Brother's turf and
humiliate's Makdong's boss he, feeling loyal to the boss because he's
well-treated, decides to act on his own to get revenge. But that turns
out to be a fatal mistake, as Makdong misunderstands
the politics of the gang rivalry.
Too much of what the filmmaker was after
about how the power stucture functions in a corrupt society, only seems
vague. But it does leave us with the sense that in the new Korea
everyone could be corrupted except for those too dumb or those who are
spastic (like one of Makdong's handicapped brothers).
It won the 1997 Vancouver Film Festival's Dragons and Tigers Award, given to top Asian films.
REVIEWED ON 6/11/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ