Breathless (Ddongpari) [2009] • South Korea

This little blurb will contain spoilers but it doesn't really need them because the film was rotten before I got here. I can't imagine how anyone could enjoy, let alone step away and appreciate, a film like this. It's ninety minutes of name calling punctuated by ass-kicking. It may not be fair to criticize subtitled translations of name calling but the word choices are terribly redundant and unimaginative. The ass-kicking was mostly just off camera so I give it points for that. The story, however, and character development, get zero points.

Breathless tells the story of the cycle of violence: that kids who grow up watching their fathers beat the crap out of their mothers grow up to beat the crap out of people too. Then somebody comes along and beats the crap out of them. In the first fifteen minutes of this film the main character spits on two women and hits them in the face. The second of the two women is a high school girl and she gets hit hard enough it knocks her unconscious. She wakes up and responds to the beating like some sort of pick-up line because, guess what? She's also grown up watching her father beat the crap out of her mother. So the two of them form a friendship.

The high school girl has a brother who, since he's also grown up watching his father beat the crap out of his mother, has to do some ass-kicking himself. He picks on his sister a bit and ultimately takes a job that leads to his kicking the ass of the main ass-kicker. Is it really going to spoil it to say that this ass-kicking of the ass-kicker is fatal? I mean, can't you see that coming a mile away?

In the end, the cycle continues. Yes, we all know this story, but we know the stories ahead of time of many of the movies we love. The trick is to create characters we care about and tell the story in some imaginative way. This film doesn't do that.

Director: Yang Ik-Joon
Starring: Yang Ik-Joon, Kot-bi Kim, Man-shik Jeong, Lee Hwan



  1. One star ... this must be some horrible computer bug!

  2. I was thinking: maybe I should write a review myself, just to counter yours for some of these movies, since we cleary share the same interest, bu we just don't really have the same taste all the time.

    But then I realize that I don't really now how to start writing an in-depth review in English.

    You say the movie lacks character progression, but that isn't a flaw by any means. I know that in television series, it is the golden rule number one that characters change over the course of the story. But in movies I don't think it is necessary at all.

    Especially in this movie, which tries to depict people who are trapped in their own little world of violence. Those people, nor their world actually change. During the film, they just happens that they share a small, previously hidden corner of their soul with the audience. But in the end, they are still the same: victim and aggressor, and more than often both.

  3. I didn't reply to your first comment because it cracked me up and I wanted to just let it sit there and enjoy it for a while.

    Thanks for livening up my blog -ANONYMOUS- with your comments.

    I agree with your last paragraph. It just didn't move me. Even though I might pretend otherwise I'm not here to judge a film on its merits. I either like a film or I don't. If you look at all the films I've given 5 stars to, by giving this one 1 star I'm just saying it is about as far away from them as you can get.

    I wrote that the film lacked character 'development', which is different from character 'progression'. If English is a second language for you the distinction is probably not very clear (and I could have made it more clear by going on to say what I meant by it). 'Development is about showing us how/why the character acts the way he does. "Progression" is just as you describe.

    To be fair, the film does try a little character development but it all seemed obvious and nothing new. Bottom line is the film is about a violent asshole and all we get is a couple hours watching him be one. Being hit over the head with the obvious ... that the cycle of violence is self-perpetuating ... wasn't interesting to me.

  4. But it is - or so I think - an important film for Korea, where violence seems actually pretty normal. I am not talking about domestic violence, but about the violence that seems to keep the extreme hierarchy of Korean society in in place.

  5. I think you are correct there. We see it in a lot of Korean films, especially from cops. And school teachers! They whack students. Girls!

    Still, it's hard for me to recommend even if it's important. It's just too unpleasant.

  6. I understand. Just like you don't like this subject, I also don't like films with too much sex in it.

  7. One star eh? I guess it all boils down to personal preferences after all. You messed up big time here buddy.