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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 15 February 2006
I saw this film shortly after seeing the same director's The Isle and was much more affected by this production, although they are both striking works. Like the earlier film, Bad Guy is a tale of obsession between lovers who exist on the edge of human relations, and features some disturbing scenes. There's a sado-masochistic thread common in those Ki-duk Kim's films I have seen which some viewers will, understandably, find controversial. The major characters are isolated, one is tempted to say insulated, from humanity, and develop their own fiercely peculiar interactions. There's the exploited lake girl (also a whore) who tends the pontoon huts in The Isle, miles from civilisation, and the murderer who seeks his hideout on the water. There's the student held as prostitute, imprisoned in her booth, and the largely mute brothel thug who falls for her, frequently stuck admiringly behind his viewing glass. These are people apart from the rest of the world by reason of misfortune or status, who hold our attention as they eventually come together.

Unlike the animal cruelty and fish hook fetishism exhibited in The Isle, Bad Guy's principal talking point lies in the changing relationship between an unwilling whore and her abductors. Bad Guy's victim is 'hooked' against her will just as securely as are the fish in The Isle. Inveigled into prostitution after a tough guy develops a romantic fixation on her in the street, she gradually comes to accept her new condition in life, the advances of her captor and even grows to 'like' being in the arms of her customers. I use inverted commas for this word as the idea that a woman can gradually enjoy her forced acquiescence into moral degradation, and enter into a voluntary relationship with a tormentor, is debatable to say the least.

There's a scene in the film which neatly describes the dilemma. The thug spends his first night with his love, an unconsummated encounter after which she sleeps on the floor beside him. She has been intimidated, then reassured, he ardent yet constrained by his feelings. First thing next morning he rises, studies her room, and spends a moment on straightening a nail in her wall. Through his one way mirror set in the wall, he has previously seen her at her most pathetic trying, unsuccessfully, to hang up a garment. Clearly this brief DIY is a moment of loving thought, out of place in any black and white view of their peculiar relationship. In fact Bad Guy is full of moments of tenderness, aided greatly by the plaintive melody of the score and the intense chemistry between the two leads. One superbly staged scene is where the two kiss through the one-way glass, she unaware of his secret response to her longing, at least until his lighter flame belatedly flickers his visage into view later. Another is as she resignedly dons a trashy wig and applies thick lipstick. He looks on again in secret, aghast at her depression, unable ' or unwilling - to interfere. Far from being a vicious peeping tom, by this stage he is practically a protector, transfixed by an obsession, as a couple of times he even dashes in to rescue her from unwanted advances. Fresh from a brutal world, the mute is not violent to his ward, nor does he rape her, and by the end of the film his possession is less physical than it is emotional. Add to this on the one occasion he speaks the sudden sound of his high pitched voice, (vocal chords presumably damaged by a conspicuous throat injury) so aptly suggestive of a eunuch's speech, and the nature of his character can be seen quite differently.

Outside of this central relationship, one might nit-pick at less than satisfactory plot points. How the thug recovers so abruptly from life-threatening wounds for instance, or his spell in prison, during which legal processes seems to take no time at all (by reference to an extended fantasy is the usual answer, an occurrence which further undermines the allegations of misogyny). Or the girl's prompt location of the missing parts of the photograph, itself symbolic of her fractured relationships, beneath a considerable expanse of anonymous sand at the beach, and so on. (Ki-duk Kim's use of the shore line as an emotional 'no-man's zone' incidentally reminds one of the importance of such moments in Takeshi Kitano's oeuvre.) The overall impression however is of quite an achievement, and one which is perhaps more mature about the unpredictable nature of love and attraction than the director has been earlier. In short, Bad Guy is no bad film, and despite some misgivings about the moral premise of the piece, one well worth seeing.
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on 4 January 2005
One of the most unforgettable movies I've ever seen. I spent countless hours thinking about the dark overtones of the movie. A realisitc view of prostitution and the "thug" life. Wonderful score, creative directing, and thought provoking controversial elements make this one worth buying.
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In this 2001 story, Sun-hwa is a college student but when she meets up with her boyfriend a strange, silent man forcibly kisses her and a fight ensues. Later she is framed as a pickpocket and is coerced into taking out a loan she cannot repay, unaware that the silent man is a pimp, she soon finds herself embroiled in the world of prostitution in order to repay her debts, but can she break her downward spiral or will she become another one of the ‘girls’?
Basically this is a slow paced reworking of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ whereby a street thug who believes he will never find true love becomes fixated with a college student who shuns and humiliates him, so he takes revenge by bringing her down to his level as he watches through a two way mirror. There are no steamy sex scenes here but rather a detached and grimy view of life in and around a seedy ‘window’ brothel. The main problem was that despite some strong acting, the overall plot failed to convince and the ‘photograph’ side-plot simply added confusion [lose a *].
The single disc opens to a main menu offering play, scene selection, set up options [5.1 default, DTS 5.1, 2.0 and directors commentary subtitles on/off] and extra features [cast interviews, behind the scenes, theatrical trailer, stills gallery and Asia Extreme trailers]. As an 18 rating and given the subject matter, this was bound to feature some nudity, but it’s all quite mild, while a rape and forced sex scene is inexplicit. The real strength of this is the way it conveys the sense of inevitability and helplessness the women undergo as their former moral compass changes.
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on 25 April 2008
I became curious for more films by Ki-duk-Kim, who has a reputation for delivering movies that are pretty edgy about relations between men and women. And this one is pretty edgy. Viewers are lured by a speech-impaired, low-class pimp Han-gi (Cho Je-Hyun) who after being attracted to middle-class college coed Sun-hwa (Seo Won) sitting on a park bench, violently kisses her in front of her boyfriend and then is beaten in public by a few soldiers and forced to apologize. After being spit on by Sun-hwa, the humiliated thug follows her and sets her up in a bookstore pickpocket scheme, where she's coerced into becoming a prostitute in a notorious Seoul red light district.

This movie basically has two parts, the breakdown of Sun-Hwa and the reconstruction of Sun-Hwa. The first half of the movie moves along at a fairly good pace. The characters are interesting and the story unfolds nicely and is punctuated by sporadic moments of violence and unpleasant bouts of non-consensual sex. The second half of the movie is decidedly slower and a little less believable. It's hard to believe that Sun-Hwa would fall for Han-Ki even after he turns her into a prostitute and watches her from behind a two-way mirror. The film quality of this movie is your Asian fare. It's not as crisp as a Hollywood movie does it does have a little more grime to it.

The acting in this film is fair. Je-Hyun Cho gives a quality performance as Han-Ki. Han-Ki is basically a mute throughout the movie, but Cho provides the character with dialogue through his physical performance and the intense looks that he provides. Half the fun of the movie for me was trying to figure out what Han-Ki is thinking from the behavior and looks that he gives. It's fun for some people, but annoying for others. Seo Won hands in a truly mind-boggling and emotional performance. Won does a talented job of showing the range of emotions that an ex-college student would go through when reduced to the level of prostitution. The scenes with her first cleint are truly disturbing and will have you squirming in your seat, unless you like that sort of thing. I was amazed at the ability of the filmmakers and actors to actually create a sense of sympathy and even a feeling of warmness for the prostitutes and the pimps, especially for Han-Ki. Despite the fact that Han-Ki basically enslaved Sun-Hwa, I still found myself kind of liking the guy. He is more than a pimp; he is a hard but loving father figure for his dysfunctional family of whores and pimps.

Overall, the viewer is asked to be a voyeur and is then told he must be as sick as the sexual predator to view this. Well you be the judge. Kim Ki-Duk's usual mix of violent and lyrical images fails to generate the proper energy he desired to show how relationships work out of biting tensions.
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on 2 March 2016
They is a guy possible the bad guy who never talks in the whole film at all the one who is looking through the glass window when they have some jittery moment in the bed room

Other than that it's ok not in English too
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on 5 October 2004
It's almost as though someone nodded off through the picture. The story is simple. Bad guy sees well-to-do girl, wants her and forces her to kiss him. Cops beat him up and he's angry. To drop her down to his level he sets her up and forces her to work as a prostitute in the red light district. It's a love story, but not as you'd expect. It's a gently disturbing film, if one can say that. While I watched it my internal commentator constantly repeated, "gee, he's really a bad guy." It's worth renting, but I'm buying my copy.
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on 13 December 2009
The 'Bad Guy' manages to say nothing for well over an hour. When he finally talks we discover (accidentally) that he has a shrill, silly voice that does not match his brooding character.
This a great little film with a MASSIVE problem. The makers seem to think it's likely that a sweet high school girl would become a thief and a prostitute, and remain in this profession 'and' fall in love with the man who put her there!
Bad Guy himself is Lazarus! He is stabbed through the gut with a sheet of glass and later repeatedly stabbed with a knife. On both occasions he is on his feet, fully recovered in no time at all. Ludicrous.
Despite this it is great entertainment and strangely absorbing, but the Koreans and Japanese need to learn that humans are not immortal - maybe it's that Samurai/Kamikaze (or the Korean equivalent) legend they just can't shake off!
(Same thing in 'Bittersweet Life', the hero lives through half a dozen certain death attacks including a machine gunning!)
Worth watching never the less! (despite the fact that the ending is awful, as if they just needed an ending, any ending... )
JP :)
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VINE VOICEon 13 October 2009
Bad Guy is a supposedly quirky love story between a near mute pimp and a sweet college girl. Plot and characterisation holes abound as on so many occasions the characters make unlikely swings in aspiration but that is not really the point. A film like this should not be judged on whether it is internally consistent, it should be judged on whether it provokes thought or forms memories. It doesn't really on either front. It isn't a terrible film, it just isn't very interesting.

The DVD cover and the accompanying blurb are entirely fictitious. None of the events described in either picture or word to explain what the film is about are accurate. This is not about the bond forged by pleasure and pain, it is not about the sinister criminal that the beautiful girl falls in love with, it is a brief interlude into the underbelly of Korean society and some of the broken people within it. It seems that the line "how can a thug be loved" is designed to be poignant but the casual misogyny in the fantasy has no wrapping around it to make it either palatable or questioning.

A significant problem with the film is that the supposed bad guy himself is such an unremarkable character. He has extremely limited speech capacity and the hunched form seems more like a surly teenager than some kind of villainous gangster. It is not emotive for a weak character to be shown as emotionally weak. It might be if a seemingly strong one has flaws but a person flawed on the outside and the inside without redeeming features is not all that easy to get excited by.

The plus sides to the film are in relative short supply but the female lead is the only real presence. At times curious and sparkling, it is hurtful to see her broken into the prostitute's lifestyle. How she falls so madly in love with a man she has almost no contact with through the film is a jarring characterisation problem. I can buy the misogynistic fantasy of the girl who loves her pimp but this particular pimp is only present to the viewer most of the time and not the girl making her love for him feel false.

There are some good laughs provided by the main support character. As another facet of the teenage boy, he is a bumbling and mistake prone enthuasist. It is also a decent comic showing though with the physical comedy mostly on display when being reprimanded the male lead.

Bad Guy probably had some nudity in it but if so it was highly forgettable. The violence is cartoonish and un-threatening.

I found the extras to be unwatchable as my Korean is far too limited to take anything from them at all.

This isn't a great film, it isn't even a particularly good film as it lacks depth, darkness, or an interesting message. Still, there are worse films out there.
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on 13 February 2011
First, disregard what is written on the case, this film is just about a love story set against the backdrop of brothel life. It starts well, the plot is fairly convincing and the human interplay holds the attention, near the end however you really have to remember this is a love story for it to be plausible, it is hard to see what motivates the lead female at the end although at the risk of spoiling it i will not say why. The main male character is mainly mute yet he is remarkably watchable, the main female character actually doesn't have that much to do apart from fits of blubbing and readying herself for the arrival of her customers. Kim-ki Duk regularly turns out films of this sort and it is hardly must see material, also probably not the place to start if this is your first film by him, i recommend spring, summer, autumn, winter and spring.
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on 23 May 2007
I found it very hard to stay awake while watching this film, since it is so boring. It's also depressing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - some of my favourite films are depressing - but it is also totally unbelievable. I gave the film two stars since the cinematography is quite good.
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