BAD GUY (Kim Ki-duk). 100 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 15) at the Royal. See Indie & Rep Cinemas, page 99. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A blank-eyed young thug targets a young student and scams her into a life of storefront prostitution. He watches obsessively through a one-way mirror as she fights, cries, tries to escape and finally becomes so emotionally dead that he dares to approach her with his version of love.
At least it might be love. Since the thug barely speaks and divides his energies between hurting and protecting her, it's hard to say.
Director Kim Ki-duk , best known for the lyrical Spring, Summer, Fall, Wintero And Spring, presents the tale as a matter of fate. Mysterious photos suggest some earlier connection between the two, and the thug has a superhuman ability to recover from serious injuries (at one point he's run through with a piece of window pane).
In the end, thug and woman reach a pastoral peace of sorts, but we're no further ahead than we were at the beginning. Despite this, the film works well on gritty atmosphere. Much of it's set in the victim's little crib, and its cheap, broken quality perfectly mirrors what her life has become.
The thug's obsession destroys the little world of the petty pimps who run the red-light block, and costs more than one life. The victimizers become as imprisoned as the victims, adding another layer of despair to an already bleak tale.