Kim Ki-Duk’s Bad Guy is a film bathed in the lurid, where the hero is a villain. Han-Gi is a local pimp whose conflicted sensibilities can be summed up by what’s in his bedside drawer: an arty Egon Schiele book conceals an old copy of Playboy. Sun-Hwa is a fragile flower of a college student plucked violently out of her middle-class garden by Han-Gi’s henchmen and forced into a life of prostitution. Nearly wordlessly, Sun-Hwa and Han-Gi follow a fate-strewn road into… what isn’t exactly clear.
Ki-Duk’s created a violent world populated with strong emotions in which power is lorded recklessly and mercilessly over the women posed in storefront cubicles, making their living off boozy loose-tied businessmen. Ki-Duk has a knack for filming beautiful scenes about ugliness: watching the johns paw and disrobe Sun-Hwa I couldn’t help feel violently protective of her, hoping one of the men, sensing her trapped terror, would pause, register her humanity and offer to save her. But no such luck. Kim Ki-Duk won’t let us off that hook so easily, which is fair enough. But then, when Sun-Hwa is given a chance to escape, the story arc becomes bafflingly circular and opaque, and the last half hour of the film is like watching a slowly deflating ballon.
Opens February 18 at Cinema Village