Crying Fist (2005)
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Review Date: May 25, 2005
Director: Seung-wan Ryoo
Writer: Seung-wan Ryoo, Cheol-hong Jeon
Producers: Syd Lim
Min-sik Choi as Tae-sik
Seung-bum Ryoo as Sang-hwan
Won-hee Lim as Won-tae
An ex-champion boxer is relegated to working the streets in his boxer’s outfit, while allowing people to punch him for money. Another, younger man, doesn’t have much direction in life, jumping from one crime to another, until he ends up in jail and discovers boxing. This film follows the lives of both men in parallel, as one attempts to make his life better for himself, his wife and his kid, while the other is simply trying to “find himself”. A journey of two lost souls ensues…
As seen at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival

Choi Min-Sik is back as a man who begins this film as a down-and-out father and a man who gets angry & angrier as the film progresses. I was one of the first in line when I read that outline, since it was at last year’s Cannes film festival that I caught (and absolutely loved!) him in OLDBOY. CRYING FIST is definitely not as much of a “find” as that flick, but it’s still a pretty damn good movie, with a cool premise that follows the lives of 2 different men, both of whom don’t seem to have much going in their lives, but both of whom ultimately find a peace of sorts, through boxing. A surprisingly emotional movie, that despite going a lot longer than it should have (an easy 20-30 minutes could, and should, be chopped off this sucker before mass distribution), pulled me into its characters’ lives by the last few scenes, in which I found myself crying like a man-child. I’m always a sucker for films with great premises and this one’s was one of the best that I read at this entire film festival, about an ex-medal winning boxer so much in debt that he has to resort to walking the streets and essentially allowing people to punch him for money. Great concept! The problem with a concept as cool and precise as this one is that it could also turn into a one-trick pony.

Thankfully for us, the filmmakers actually have a lot more going for them than just that cool idea. What they’ve got is a story about two men, who in different chapters of their lives, have issues with anger, responsibility and relations with their family. They also – and I hate to say this because nobody likes to admit to these things in real life – aren’t exactly the “brightest” chestnuts in the bunch. I say that because it seems to play a part in the unfortunate paths of their respective lives, which seems to lead them down the boulevard. But as in most instances of redemption, revitalization and re-awakenings in life, the men ultimately seem to have to hit rock-bottom, before discovering what is special about their lives, and what they can actually do, to make something of themselves. The film is shot at a nice pace, but it’s really too long. What’s said in the first half hour or so, seems to repeat itself for the next hour, until we get to the film’s final act, which most should see coming from the film’s first act on. At some points, certain scenes started to feel redundant and I was pulled out of the proceedings. Thankfully, the director always kept things interesting via his eyes, the actors through their performances, and the film via its ultimate message, which includes the great importance of family in one’s life, that I was able to discount the fact that it outstayed its welcome.

I also wasn’t entirely impressed with the film’s actual boxing scenes. I’m not sure if boxing is different in Korea or something, but the pugilists seemed simply to be swatting each other with zero technique in this film…weird. I was expecting a lot more style during the film’s finale, but received instead, a touch of emotion and you know what…I was okay with that! I generally find most Asian flicks melodramatic, but this one won me over. I’m not sure if it was the beers that I chugged down at lunch before the screening, or my “own shit” that I had going on, but I felt for both of these characters by the end of this movie, and that’s despite the fact that they’re really not the nicest of guys, so that’s saying a lot! Kudos to the filmmakers for creating a movie that touches both the heart and the depths that certain people can sink into their lives. I only wish they had cut the film a lot tighter, so that we wouldn’t have to sit through much of the same stuff, as we reach for the film’s successful conclusion.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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