NIGHT IN PARADISE (‘Nak-Won-Eui-Barm)
(director/writer:Park Hoon-jung; cinematographer: Kim Young-ho; editor: Jang Lae-won; music: Mowg; cast: Tae-goo Eom (Park Tae Gu), Jeon Yeo-been (Jae Yeon), Cha Seoung-won (Director Ma), Lee Ki-young (Kuto), Park Ho-san(Yang Do Soo), Dong-in Cho (Jin Sung), Ahn Se-bin (Ji Eun), Mun-shik Lee (Captain Park), Byung-ho Son (Chairman Doh); Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Park Hoon-jung; Goldmoon Film/Netflix; 2020-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles)
“A well-photographed and grim crime drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A well-photographed and grim crime drama directed and written with force by South Korea’s Park Hoon-jung (“New World”/”I Saw the Devil, The Witch – Part 1″). Though too long, poorly edited and somewhat dull between gunfights and knife fights, overall even if pointless was entertaining as a grindhouse escapist film. The nihilistic drama, with no good-guy characters, points to an indifferent world where no one rules and society is manipulated by gangsters (police and gangsters are interchangeable). It’s also saddled by a justice system not working because of an uncaring population to check it. The troubled characters featured are mostly driven by the need to get even for their wrongs by settling a score the old-fashioned way–with a blood-letting. It also includes a romantic subplot between an older man and younger woman.
A Seoul-based gang is run by the sly old man Yang Do Soo (Park Ho-San), where the goofy smiling Park Tae Gu (Tae-goo Eom) is a lieutenant in the gang. After Tae Gu’s terminally-ill half-sister (Dong-in Cho) and her child (Ahn Se-bin) are supposedly killed in an auto accident by the rival Bukseong gang, the caring Tae Gu kills those responsible, after getting Yang’s consent. Thereby the Bukseong gang goes after him, as directed by their ruthless new leader, Director Ma (Cha Seoung-won), a secret friend of the two-faced Yang. But, with Yang’s help, Tae makes his getaway by plane to the beautiful resort island of Jeju, during the off season, where he’s reluctantly driven by the ailing Jae-yeon (Jeon Yeo-been) to a hideout owned by her uncle–the gun-smuggler and former hit-man Kuto (Lee Gi-yeong).
The two unlikable lead characters, verbally berate each other, but relent when they find some things they have in common, such as enjoying the island’s exotic veggie-mulhoe. They also both find a taste for hopeless love and a belief they will soon die thereby nothing really matters.
The film is well-acted, the action sequences are brutal and stupendous, the wit is wry and darkly funny and the visuals are so good you can watch the film just for that alone and be sated. The film, so competently made, is as good as your taste is for such violent films with bleak narratives and ambiguous endings, where characters get carved up by knives, and its antihero ends up going to Russia. In this mobster tale, all the bad dudes are going around in circles unable to break away from their bad cycle.
I don’t mind if gangster films are dark, bloody and end on a bitter note, as long as I think they could be real. The film, with no real surprises, reminded me of Takeshi Kitano’s over-the-top yakuza dramas.
REVIEWED ON 6/22/2021 GRADE: B