(Third Window DVD retail)
In one scene in this Korean gangster movie we’re introduced to a character called Ashtray, aptly named for the way he will open up someone’s head with this clearly hazardous object. Whether it is the fishhook in the vagina in The Isle, the live octopus eating in Old Boy, or the general mayhem in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Korean cinema has certainly put itself on the cinematic map with a splat.
The central character Tae-Ju (Han Suk-kyu) wants to make it big, and with a show of violence he’s managed to work his way up to number three in the gangster hierarchy but wants pole position. The chief problem is that gangster number one is none other than the man who wields the ashtray as well as power. Other nuisances are of a more benign nature: his partner wants him to forego the violent life, and fancies herself as a poet (perplexingly writers Rimbaud and Woolf are also thrown into the mix). This 1997, available here for the first time is one of shifting registers that has been compared to Goodfellas; it’s a comparison that does the film few favours. Extras include making of documentary.