Review: ‘Breathless’

Way overlong at 130 minutes, and centered on characters who are almost all unsympathetic, "Breathless" still reps a head-turning debut by South Korean thesp Yang Ik-june as producer, director, writer and even star.

Way overlong at 130 minutes, and centered on characters who are almost all unsympathetic, “Breathless” still reps a head-turning debut by South Korean thesp Yang Ik-june as producer, director, writer and even star. One of the few films to attract attention in the Pusan fest’s Vision strand, this drama centered on a brutal loan-shark enforcer should bounce around the fest circuit but would benefit from a half-hour of cuts to its gutter-dialogued, often unpleasantly violent story, especially in the first half.

Yang plays the dour Kim Sang-hun, chief muscle for Man-shik (Jeong Man-shik), with whom he has a long, combative working relationship. First hour focuses at unnecessary length on Kim beating up people; story proper develops when he’s befriended by a high school girl, Han Yeon-heui (Kim Gol-bi), whose no-good brother, Yeong-jae (Lee Hwan), starts working for Man-shik’s gang. Entirely thanks to the two thesps — especially the young Kim, in the most difficult role — their scenes develop a real emotional undertow as Kim begins his painful journey to possible redemption. Shot with handheld cameras, often in extreme closeup, pic literally rubs viewers’ noses in its unedifying universe.

Breathless

South Korea

Production

A CJ Entertainment-CGV Independent presentation of a Mole Film production. Produced, directed, written by Yang Ik-june.

Crew

Camera (color), Yun Jong-ho; editor, Lee Yeong-jeon; music, the Invisible Fish. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (Korean Cinema Today -- Vision), Oct. 8, 2008. Original title: Ddongpari. Running time: 130 MIN.

With

Yang Ik-june, Kim Gol-bi, Lee Hwan, Jeong Man-shik.
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