Top positive review
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Challenging, chilling and explicit. Not for everyone
on 22 October 2013
This Korean film could have been tailor-made to my tastes but I rather suspect it will be too harsh for many. I'm a fan of world cinema; of psychological thrillers; of films which explore the boundaries of the acceptable, and I'm comfortable with the stark portrayal of realistic violence where it serves a credible dramatic purpose.
Pieta is all that, and much more. It's an astonishing modern-day noir which explores the mother-son relationship, and loss and revenge, the formation of character and the possibility of redemption. The brutal debt collector who despises his irresponsible clients, who is quite capable of raping and maiming - even he may not be beyond salvation. Indeed, he doesn't seem capable of killing an eel or a rabbit, although he thinks little of pushing a man from the second floor and then breaking his leg a bit more, just to make sure the debtor is properly crippled...
This is a bleak and powerful exploration of the worst aspects of humanity, wrapped up in a sneakily compelling narrative and featuring two stand-out performances from the lead actors. The slum workshops of a modern Korean city, soon to be demolished to make way for gleaming hi-rise office blocks, form the perfect backdrop for what should be a story of urban despair. Except not all of the incidental characters are without hope or aspiration. one young husband, about to become a father for the first time, happily accepts being crippled in order to give his child a decent start in life. It's a slap in the face way to explore parental devotion, indeed.
Oh -- and the title? Refers to 'piety', or indeed 'pity'. More food for thought...
Definitely 18-rated, and definitely worth your time IF you have a strong flinch threshold and appreciate a controversial moral debate. But don't pick this up thinking it's a standard-issue martial arts revenge flick. It's much more arthouse than mainstream.