This truly is a noodle western, as opposed to one of the spaghetti variety.
A Bittersweet life plays like a modern Good Bad & Ugly, or even Wild bunch. Long lingering shots, close pained expressions, quietly spoken anti heros. It has the lot. To me the setting of modern day Seoul is just as interesting as the American old west, and in this movie it looks even better. This film is beautifully put together, you can watch it for the visuals alone. Luckily there is also far more. The lead performane from Byun-Hun Lee is excellent. He exudes cool while remaining human. He is also very ably assisted by a multitude of character actors.
The story is simple, a man who is wronged seeks revenge, but also answers. Much of his feeling of hurt may relate to loyalty and relationships between employers, and father figures in Korea which to me seem stronger than in the UK. Still though, in this case revenge seems necessary. When you view in disbelief the terrible torture of the main character at the hands of the one he loved, and his internal torture after viewing something he could never have you will understand his need for retribution, and absolution.
This movie is at times very dark, but has enough excitement and kinetic energy to keep the action fan happy, enough depth and emotion for the intellectual and more than enough stylised cinematography for the most die hard cineaste.