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December 19, 2006

Bloody Tie


Sasaeng Gyeoldan
Ho Choi - 2006
J-BICS Region 3 DVD

Bloody Tie synthesises an eclectic mix of American film and music black. Black both as in "film noir" and in "blacksploitation". This is like a Quentin Tarantino film without a lot of the pretense from a Korean filmmaker who should be better known stateside.

The appropriation of Black American music is heralded by the wah-wah pedal guitar score at the beginning, the kind of music made me think back to the glory days of Black Caesar and The Mack. The film closes with Korean rap music, another reminder of global culture and that what comes around, goes around, and around and back in a continuous dialogue. This should not be surprising considering how many of the rap artists of today have been inspired by the "black" films of the early Seventies, some of which were reworkings of film noir from the Fifties. With a narrative that recalls the Hong Kong films of John Woo, Bloody Tie could also be seen as an almost parallel companion piece to The Departed.

The film centers primarily on the relationship between Lee (Ryu Seung-beom on the right), a drug dealer who fancies himself a venture capitalist, and Doh (Hwang Jeong-min on the left), a rogue cop who allows Lee to continue his occupation in exchange for information on other dealers and cash payments. How the film recalls classic film noir is the exposure of all of the characters as corrupted, from the small-time pusher to the higher levels of government. In this respect, it is especially fitting that one of the most shocking moments in Bloody Tie is reminiscent of a similar moment in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat. The concept of family also proves to be corrupting and corruptible, Lee's uncle is presented as both a former drug addict and dealer, while Doh lives with the wife of his dead partner. Like the classic noir films, everyone has his or her price.


Visually the film is indebted to Martin Scorsese who has famously cribbed from so many older filmmakers. There is also some split-screen work which recalls Brian De Palma. As in the above scene, there are shots (literally) from unusual angles. While Scorsese and De Palma's movies of the early Seventies incorporated obvious tributes to the old masters who inspired them, one could look at Bloody Tie as a Korean homage to the American "film generation".

Posted by peter at December 19, 2006 12:28 AM


Mr. Nellhaus,
I was lucky enough to catch "Bloody Tie" in Seoul this May--and we went to see it on a whim: after a day of wandering around, we wanted to sit down and see a movie made locally.

The soundtrack didn't leap out at me, but I think I was too busy trying to make sense of the film (no subtitles)--or perhaps fill in the gaps: without any dialog to latch onto, it was only actions and reactions that we could interpret. But what actions! The flick has that deliciously perverse "balls to the wall" flavor of those 70s B-movie thrillers--and without the context of dialog, actions would come out of nowhere--like the cop's revealing of the drug mule's stash.

I want to see this movie again!

Posted by: Ivan at December 19, 2006 03:58 PM

If you'd liked this, check out "A Dirty Carnival" or Ryu Seung-Wan's excellent noirtial arts effort "City of Violence"

Posted by: Dave at December 21, 2006 08:37 AM