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REVIEW: A man named Park Joon-kil (Park Sung-woong), comes home and has passionate sex with his girlfriend. When it’s over, he tells her, “I am sorry Hye-kyung, I killed Whang Chun-nam.” Who is Whang Chun-nam? He has been blackmailing Hye-kyung for a long time. Hye-kyung (Jeon Do-yeon) works as a bar hostess at Macao, an old and decadent beer hall. Once known for her sexiness, the still beautiful Hye-kyung is heavily in debt because of her boyfriend who embezzled money from a mob boss he worked for. Now he’s on the run.
After Joon-kil fled, a homicide detective named Jung Jae-gon (Kim Nam-gil) begins watching Hye-kyung. Jae-gon suspects that Joon-kil will contact her soon, so when Hye-kyung is not at home, Jae-gon secretly puts a bug in her house. He then waits patiently out front. One day, Joon-kil comes back, sneaking into Hye-kyung’s house in the middle of the night. Jea-gon hears Joon-kil and Hye-kyung having sex and realizes he’s got them. He waits until they sleep before making his move. When he thinks it’s safe, he quietly sneaks into the house and then watches them sleep. Joon-kil soon wakes up with a strange feeling as Jae-gil points his gun. They fight and go out the window in the road where they fight fiercely before Joon-kil takes Jae-gon’s gun and runs away.
The botched arrest leaves Jae-gon with only once choice. He must stick close to Hye-kyung. Going undercover, he becomes the floor manager at the bar where Hye-kyung’s works, and watches her every move. But as Jae-gon spends more time with Hye-kyung, he feels a strange sense of guilt and his resolve to catch the runaway suspect is shaken. Jae-gon doesn’t understand this feeling he has towards Hye-kyung, but it begins to overwhelm him. Meanwhile, Hye-kyunug, keeps waiting for her boyfriend to come back to her. She opens up to Jae-gon, whom she thinks is a former cellmate of Joon-kil’s.
Eventually, Joon-kil comes to see Hye-kyung and asks for some money. Hye-kyung believes that she can run away with Joon-kil and live a new life as his wife. After work one night, she goes home, a little tipsy herself. Jae-gon is waiting for her in front of her house. She sees him and invites him in. While they are talking, a passionate feeling builds between them. They spend the night together. In the morning, Jae-gon tells her, “I can give you money. Give it to Joon-kil and then live your life with me.” She admits to him, “I thought about it hundreds of times every day but…” Jae-gon knows she can’t be free of Joon-kil until he has money to run away forever. Jae-gon leaves her with these words: “When I have the money, I will call you.”
Written and directed by Oh Seung-uk, this is a hard-boiled mellow-drama which is rarely seen in Korea, making its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and receiving high praise. The story of star-crossed lovers, jealousy and revenge is not new of course, but Oh Seung-uk directs the love between man and woman in different ways, making this feel fresh and very emotional. His focus on the emotional triangle and the effects on the two new lovers is the highlight.
Hy-kyung and Jae-gon never say they love each other once in the film but I can feel it. They love without acknowledging it, just to soak up their real passions for each other. Jeon Do-yeon (The Housemaid, 2010), the main actress, changed the flow of the story with only very small changes in her facial expressions. In the film, Hye-kyung has spent many years with Joon-kil, so her life feels domesticated and fulfilled by the relationship. Even still, Hye-kyung’s heart goes to Jae-gon, but she couldn’t readily take his. What is “love” that we have defined for ourselves? After watching the film, it may make you think again just what that might be.
Trailer: English Subtitle