Friend aka Chingoo belongs at the top of anyone’s Korean gangster film list. In a genre that is saturated and evidently overindulged its hard to say that Friend is not a typical gangster melodrama. It is typical, with emotional sentiments and great action. There is nothing exceptionally unique about the story, its simply told really well. So well that it was the highest-grossing film in Korea at one point in time. Also, it was remade into a drama series some years later (Friend, Our Legend).
As the title suggests, the notion of friendship is the prevailing force throughout the film. The backdrop and early depiction of their friendship centers around high-school and being hooligans (70’s), and then shifts into adulthood and the underworld (90’s). Its about a group of friends and their choices, similar to Fate which despite the title is more about choices than fate/destiny. Both films explore the themes of brotherhood, loyalty, betrayal, integrity and any other gangster/macho things you can think of. I can confidently say that Friend is overall a better film than Fate because of its character development, parallelism and cinematography.
“…Each of their lives takes different turns as they grow up and their paths cross in conflict with each other’s. Joon-suk becomes the leading henchman of his father’s crime ring and Dong-su is serving for Joon-suk’s rival gangs. Sang-taek and Joong-ho find themselves helplessly watching their two best friends wield knives at each other… ” (AsianMediaWiki)
I found Friend to be a profoundly strong film. I think it succeeded in connecting the characters and their story to the audience very well. It was a gripping tale and depiction of “friendship” that I think would strike a cord with most viewers on a personal level. Its a film that made me think about my friendships on a deeper level: the connection of the relationship and the choices either party makes. It makes you wonder what has led you to this point, and where you will be in the future.
Written/ Directed by: Kwak Kyung-Taek
aparoo’s words: melodrama, gangster, underworld, friendship,
aparoo says 5/5
photo credit: hancinema.net