*Originally reviewed in 2014 based on a free copy provided by Amazon – buy it here!
As a big Asian movie fan, this was one I was looking forward to. However, as is often the case with, some may say, niche films, taglines and blurbs surrounding the movie are sensationalist and prone to hyperbole. I’d heard and read that this was shocking, brutal, emotionally draining, and bleak, but really only one of those terms is fully accurate, while the other three will depend on the viewer – those used to such niche films will likely not be shocked, horrified, or drained. The movie is bleak though, a dark story focusing on scum and the exploited, and there isn’t really a glimpse of light or hope throughout. It is however well made, well acted, and while I wouldn’t say there were many surprises, it did keep me thoroughly engaged throughout, and eager to see how it all ended.
The film follows a thuggish orphan who preys on the weak in his role as a debt collector. His apathy and underlying rage lead him to violence towards those who cannot pay him, and a complete lack of care for his horrible actions. Out of nowhere, a woman claiming to be his mother shows up, full of apologies, and with an eerily apathetic determination to get into his life. There isn’t much more to say about what follows – there is bonding, and the repeated recurrences of past evils, and a strong conclusion. It is difficult to feel sympathy towards any of the characters here, and I’m not sure if it was the director’s intent to ever let us contemplate feeling sympathy – maybe only the sympathy a normal ‘good’ person would be expected to feel towards someone, even a monster, who is in pain. You will likely be conflicted, but maybe that will be more down to the confused plotting and intent rather than the issues at work. It is brilliantly cold, feels very authentic, and is a brooding, dank, descent into a seedy underworld of revenge, held together by a couple of strong leading performances.
Have you seen Pieta? Where does it rank among South Korea’s other recent revenge thrillers? Let us know in the comments!