BLOOD & BONES (Japanese, Korean)
  Publicity Stills of "Blood & Bones"
(Courtesy from Lighthouse Pictures)

In Japanese and Korean (English & Chinese Subtitles)
Director: Yoichi Sai
Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Hirofumi Arai, Tomoko Tabata, Jô Odagiri
RunTime: 2 hrs 20 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Lighthouse Pictures
Rating: R21

Website: http://www.lhp.com.sg/blood

Opening Day: 29 December 2005

Synopsis :

BLOOD AND BONES paints an unflinching portrait of a man’s deeply bound to his ego and obsessions and the web of turmoil his wife, mistress, children, relatives and all those around him are drawn into as a result of his choices and brutal, violent nature. In 1923, Kim Shun-pei left Cheju, an isolated island in the far South of Korea for Osaka, Japan, dreaming of making his fortune in a new land. Contrary to his hopes, what was waiting for Shun-pei in Japan was a brutal life of discrimination and hard labour. With his remarkable physical strength, cunning and ruthlessness he overcomes the odds stacked against him and opens a steamed fish cake factory, which before long is a success, bringing him the fortune he coveted for so long. However, with no limit to his obsession for money, Shun-pei gradually transforms himself into a ruthless loan shark. Based on a true story by Yan Sogiru, Takeshi Kitano portrays the rise and fall of a first generation Korean man in a defining role.

Movie Review:

This film is about one man’s odyssey into a strange land, and his ruthless obsession in seeking wealth. The opening credits will bear a close resemblance to Tony Montana (Al Pacino) seeking the American Dream in “Scarface” (1983). However, while Tony’s obsession lies in vying for power among the mafia ranks, the main Korean character for this film Kim Shunpei (portrayed magnificently by Beat Takeshi) sought dominance and control within his family in Osaka, Japan. This movie thus traces the rise of a dictator who succeeds in carving out a career and accumulating his wealth but in the process, loses his humanity and conscious.

This is one of Beat Takeshi’s finest roles for this year, after displaying his volatile acting prowess as a blind samurai in “Zaitochi” (2003) and a ruthless warlord in “Battle Royale” (2000). Takeshi shines as the violent Kim Shunpei, head of the household and a tyrant at heart. Silent and introspective at times, Takeshi allows the brutality and indifference of the lead character to shine through. Bringing the character to life through his broodiness and frustration, Takeshi breathes life into the lead character through his every action, from his urge to lash out to his ruthless desire to control. Takeshi has taken on the challenge of portraying a character whose depth is almost impossible to emulate. But he has succeeded.

However, “Blood and Bones” is also a movie about a family, not only the main protagonist. It therefore employs the narrative technique to reveal the change in Kim Shunpei’s family over the years, through the eyes of a young boy Masao (Hirofumi Arai). This technique is relatively similar to “City of God”, where the main character narrates the happenings and developments in the film. Director Sai Yoichi has crafted this film with a deft hand, vividly illustrating the adverse ripple effect Kim Shunpei’s violent inclinations have on his entire dysfunctional family, slowly moving the film towards its tragic end.

Intense and poignant, this film’s strengths lie in its ability to relate underlying emotions to the audience, including subtle nuances of anger and frustration. Credit should also be given to the supporting cast, as the family dynamics works great in this film, be it the alternations between siblings or the rivalry between lovers. Be it a son who never gets reciprocated, a wife whose subservience is never noticed, a daughter who gets abused simply for being docile, this film never let down the audience in its brutal depiction of a life of domestic violence enmeshed in a web of dominance.

Director Sai Yoichi has managed to weave sentimentality and violence seamlessly into the social fabric of Osaka, right in the heart of a Korean family in a foreign land. It brilliantly shows the apprehension of the Koreans surviving in a strange land and what they do in order to survive. It illustrates their reluctant support in the Second World War but more importantly, it brings out the emotions in all of us when we see a part of ourselves in the characters: Love. Hate. Anger, Frustration. Which constitutes life itself.

This film will bring the audience deep into one man’s psyche, where the obsession for money and wealth supercedes everything else, including love. And which in turn doomed him to a life of loneliness and isolation.

Movie Rating:

(“Brutal and emotional, “Blood and Bones” is a brilliant biography of a self-obsessed man. ”)

Review by Patrick Tay

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