3-IRON (Kim Ki-duk). 95 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (May 20). For venues and times, see Movies, page 117. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
3-Iron is another of Kim Ki-duk 's dramas of silence, compulsion, fate and mysticism.
His earlier film Bad Boy featured a non-speaking protagonist hell-bent on degrading a young woman until she sinks low enough to accept his love.
This time, hero and heroine have one line between them, and their odd compulsion is to break into other people's houses and flee upon their owners' return. They cook, clean, make a little art - they're trying on other people's lives. This makes sense for the heroine, who's on the run from an abusive husband. But the young hero's motives begin as a mystery and become even more opaque as he strives for total invisibility.
Their flight from her husband and his pursuit and revenge make for a suspenseful plot, and moments of violence shatter the dreamy mood, but the film sags in the middle.
Kim is clearly more interested in theme and atmosphere than in plot. He pursues these with a fluid, casually graceful camera and a leisurely pace that gives us ample time to think.
But Kim's refusal to explain and his leads' studied blankness thwart our emotional involvement and undermine the inherent power of the film's ideas and striking climax.