(낙원의 밤 Nagwonui bam)
dir: Park Hoon-jung
Ah, the blessings of Netflix be upon you. I had heard about this film recently, and, wouldn’t you know it, it was on my local streaming service, so I watched it when I found a spare 2 hours and 15 minutes to myself, which are admittedly hard to come by these days.
So I watched it, and, well, now you have to suffer too.
Not that it’s bad, it’s just that, when you hear about it, you think it will be a certain way, and then when you watch it, it turns out to be something completely else. And that’s okay, that’s just a difference in expectation versus what you actually get.
I didn’t have any particular high or low expectations, but perhaps I had some preconceived ideas based on other South Korean films I’ve seen over the years.
And no, this is nothing like Parasite, in case you were wondering, a film that won Oscars and that people have almost completely forgotten about due to… well you know.
This was also clearly made some time in 2020, because there are some people with masks, and references to social distancing, but other than that it doesn’t play much part in the story.
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on South Korean films, culture, politics, history or crime, but I’m telling you this for free – this flick in its manner of telling a story about a young gangster is indistinguishable for any other number of flicks I’ve seen about young yakuza, young triads or any other jerks in organised crime set in other countries. The setting and the window dressing are different, but, really, the specificity of the location belies the fact that this could have been told universally.
Tae-gu (Park Tae-goo) is a loyal gangster in his gangster clan. He is respected and admired and all that crap, but, most importantly, he is feared by the jerks in the opposite clan called the Bukseong, who tried to recruit him, which he regretfully declines.
After a meeting with those rivals, Tae-gu gets to spend a few brief moments with his sister, who is unwell, and his niece, who’s cute as a button. And it’s her birthday!
Despite being a cold emotionless robot in all his work dealings, Tae-gu loves his sister and his niece. He gives her an expensive present, and waves like an idiot (though not as idiotically as one of his fellow henchmen) as they drive off.
His sister is ailing, and in need of a transplant of some sort, but he is not a suitable donor. What’s to be done?