166) Breathless (2009) Dir: Yang Ik-Joon Not Yet Released Date Seen: June 6th, 2009 Rating: 2.75/5
Writer/director Yang Ik-Joon's Breathless isn't necessarily a bad film, just one with questionable emotional worth. His character study of Sang-hoon (played by Yang himself), an abusive debt collector that defines the South Korean male patriarchial tyrant stereotype--he beats his women, he's a deadbeat dad, he curses constantly, he drinks too much and he's also a product of a broken home--is honest in its rawness but infused with a dishonest kind of wishful thinking.
Over the course of the film, Sang-hoon changes for the better and while he does it on his own terms, the changes that he undergoes after he takes a surly teen under his wing feel like cheap in their quick melodramatic fixes to serious character flaws. Yang's performance and his interactions with his sister and her kid alone humanize him sufficiently, making this added queasily romantic subplot also a fruitless redundancy. As the relationship gradually becomes the film's central focus, Breathless loses its edge as a prickly entry in what NYAFF programmer Daniel Craft sagaciously calls the Korean subgenre of "My Bastard Dad" melodramas.
Note: Yang's performance is powerful but like Tom Hardy's performance in Bronson, which also relies on broad physicality, I hesitate to praise him in a role that requires him to go over the top and never come down.