3-IRON (Bin-jip)

3-IRON (Bin-jip) (director/writer: Kim Ki-Duk; cinematographers: Seong-back Jang/Jang Seong-Back; editor: Kim Ki-Duk; music: Slvian; cast: Lee Seung-yeon (Sun-hwa), Jae Hee (Tae-suk), Kwon Hyuk-ho (Min-kyu), Joo Jin-mo (Detective Cho), Choi Jeong-ho (Jailer), Lee Joo-suk (Son of Old Man); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Kim Ki-Duk; Sony Pictures Classics; 2004-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles )
“An unusual original story that’s rooted in a Buddhist parable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk (“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. . . and Spring”) presents an unusual original story that’s rooted in a Buddhist parable (according to pop culture) of seeing the world as a dream (reality as illusion). It pays homage to Thailand’s Tsai Ming-Liang’s “Vive L’amour” in respects to making silence golden (very little dialogue). It also comes with a ghost-like portrayal of its mysterious alienated hero, someone gentle but with a penchant for bringing on violence to himself and to others.

Tae-suk (Jae Hee) is a resourceful drifter who sneaks into unoccupied middle-class apartments when unoccupied (staking out the apartments by putting advertising flyers for takouts on the door and later returns to see which apartment still has the flyer). He makes himself at home enjoying the materialistic comforts of his temporary residence. Seemingly in a gesture of gratitude, he does the laundry, cleans the house, fixes any broken items and never steals. He tries to leave before they return. On one of his break-ins, he’s discovered by fashion model Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) who watches him without saying a word. She’s in a loveless marriage with an abusive businessman husband Min-kyu (Kwon Hyuk-ho), who keeps calling and gets increasingly angrier telling her to pick up the phone. Though Sun-hwa, exhibiting facial bruises, observes Tae-suk taking a bath, she still says nothing. The husband returns and starts acting abusive to her; this causes Tae-suk to drive a number of golf balls with a 3-iron hard into the body of the husband. The wife leaves with Tae-suk on his motorbike, and they together live in a number of vacant apartments and begin a tender romance without speaking. There’s a domestic bliss reached in their fantasy relationship that wasn’t in her marriage. Later, they discover an old man dead in one of their illegal entry visits and the corpse is given a respectful burial. But under hostile questioning from the police, he’s jailed even though it’s confirmed that the victim died from lung cancer. In the end, Tae-suk turns into a ghost (through will power he turns invisible and escapes from his jailers) and though Sun-hwa is back with her unchanged abusive husband she’s happy because she lovingly communicates with Tae-suk whom only she can see. It’s pure cornball movie magic and it’s delightful.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”