Breathless (2 stars)


(18) 130min

It’s often the most violent films from South East Asia that make it to international cinemas and that’s true of Yang Ik-joon’s Breathless. Whereas the films of Park Chan-wook, John Woo and to a lesser extent Takeshi Kitano are often so extreme that the violence becomes cartoonish, Yang’s film is so realistic it sometimes feels more like a British kitchen sink drama.

The man the hand-held camera is focusing on is thug-for-hire Sang-Hoon (Yang Ik-June), he’d hit you for looking at him or for sharing the same blood group as him. The movie starts with a montage of beatings before settling into a love story of sorts as Yang meets a feisty high school student (Kim Go-Bi) with an equally high zest for violence. But alas, instead of going all Bonnie and Clyde, Yang concentrates on Sang-Hoon’s family troubles, his hatred of his father and his relationship with his son. As such the adrenalin that filled the early moments is lost to a clichéd conclusions about the cyclical nature of violence.

Selected release from Fri 29 Jan.

Breathless trailer


  • 2 stars
  • 2008
  • South Korea
  • 2h 10min
  • E
  • Directed by: Yang Ik June
  • Cast: Yang Ik-june, Kim Kkobbi, Lee Hwan

Gangster Soon-Hong's life is a cycle of violence and self-loathing. When he meets schoolgirl Han Yeon-Heui, he not only meets his match, but his possible salvation. Is his lifestyle one he can transcend? Held together by a blistering lead performance by the director himself, this is Korean cinema at its most foul-mouthed…

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