An action drama by Park Ji-won-I about a gambling street thug, Kang-su, who is always on the run from loan sharks. But when his young son Jong-chul is diagnosed with kidney cancer, he tries to be a real parent for the first time and seeks out Jong-chul’s biological father, Tae-suk. Tae-suk, however, refuses to help. What will become of Jong-chul?
Title: City of Fathers
Other Names: 부산 (Busan) aka City of Fathers, 父山
Genre: Action, Drama
Director: Park Ji-won-I
Cast: Kim Yeong-ho, Ko Chang-seok, Yoo Seung-ho, Jeon-kyeong, Kim Jeong-hak, Jo Jin-woong
Country: South Korea
Running Time: 1hr 41mins
So…just watched City of Fathers…not too sure what make of the movie. I don’t know about you guys but the plot sounds familiar. Actually one of the earlier movies I posted a review on His Last Gift had a similar plot. This is why I decided to watch this movie. I could only remember a bit of the plot from Last Present, so instead of watching it again I thought I’d watch Busan (or City of Fathers – I don’t know what to call it…the beginning of the movie shows 부산 (Busan) and at the end of the movie it shows 父.山, and the English name, apparently is City of Fathers, so its anyone’s guess) and try to compare what I could remember. What is notably different is that this movie is rated 18 (due to language and violence) thus giving the potential of possibly surpassing His Last Gift.
Kang, a single father addicted to gambling and drinking, is constantly trying to dodge loan sharks. All the associated stress, he takes it out on his son, Jong-chul, through verbal and physical abuse. But after he learns of his young son diagnosis of kidney cancer, he tries to change his ways and be more of a father to him. However there is only so much that Kang is able to do, and saving Jong-chul is not going as well as would like. This leaves him no choice but to seek the help of the real father, Tae-suk; a gangster who views the concept of a family as a burden. What does this mean for Jong-chul?
The movie starts of with a look at the three main characters: Kang, Jong-chul and Tae-seok. Tae-seok is portrayed to be a ruthless short-tempered gangster, Jong-chul seems to be an unappreciated kid, and Kang, who I think is the main character (or should be if he isn’t), a drinker and gambler in trouble with the loan sharks. One day the son is diagnosed with kidney cancer, yet Kang’s behavior and attitude towards him is no different; verbal and physical abuse continues.
Comedic scenes appear here and there throughout the first half of the movie with the loan sharks and they character of Kang. The first half is relatively light in comparison with the second half, which grows to be filled with violence and language and such. I don’t have a lot of issues with this, except that the second half in comparison with the first seems a bit over the top.
It is only until the second half where Kang begins to have a change of heart with regards to the relationship with his son, and it is at this point where he really wants to do all he can to save his son. He ends up running out of ideas and is left with no choice but to seek the help of the kid’s biological father; the ganster named Tae-seok. We quickly learn about Tae-seok’s views on the subject of family, so is this really the right person to call in times of family matters?
As I was doing a bit of research after the movie, from what I found it seems that this may be the directorial debut of Park Ji-won-I. Im not too familiar with how movies with new directors typically turnout or feel, but to me, I would not be able to tell that this was a debut film, though in hind sight, there were a few things that may in some way have reflected this. There are some characters that are introduced yet their story is not completed (for example, Soon Ae, the immigrant worker who Kang tricks into working for his friend’s bar (funny story of how he achieves this, I don’t want to spoil it for you.)), and also I did not particularly like the way this movie was concluded as I found it incomplete (whether others will agree with me on this or not…?).
I’m not sure exactly how to rate this movie. The acting was really good, especially Ko Chang-seok who plays the character Kang. Though I did not find the relationship between the three title characters as believable as His Last Gift (which the movie was slowly coming back to me), there were many memorable scenes and characters in Busan that made it enjoyable.
As this is rated 18, the level of violence and language is, obviously, more prominent through out the movie. There were some good fighting scenes, but then again some of the later scenes where becoming a bit too much. You’d think after being smacked like a dozen times in the ribs with a steel bat would break a few and probably hinder one from being able to perform certain tasks, let alone take down 4 or 5 of the bad guys.
City of Fathers is not perfect, though there are a number of things that made the movie enjoyable, especially the quality of the acting, I found the movie to have a quite a few holes and loose ends which were unaddressed. Maybe its one of those movies that you have to watch again in order to understand everything…though itdoesn’t seem like that to me. Though this may be a directorial debut, I don’t think that should have an effect on the rating that I give it. I found this to be possibly one of the more difficult movies to rate so far, particularly as it is becoming more apparent to me that the way I have been rating some of the movies I have watched is too generous and possible based solely on entertainment value and not looking into other aspects involved (i.e. plot, characters, acting, directing, etc)…maybe I should change my rating system to try to reflect the other scores at some point. So with that in mind, though I found the acting to be the highlight of the movie (though there was some overacting, as expected, I can’t stress how good the acting was, especially of the two fathers), there were too many small things I found annoying which accumulated (especially the loose ends) and I didn’t really find it as emotionally engaging as His Last Gift. I’d like to hear (read about) your thoughts, especially if you have seen both movies. By the way if any of you have seen this movie, can you tell me the song that Tae-seok sings at the karaoke on his birthday (the scene is the first picture in the pictures section)?
I give this a 5.5/10 … though it is a movie I would probably watch again.