What is the story about?
Hiding out from rivals after assasinating Chairman Doh, the boss of the Bukseong crime syndicate, lowly gangster Tae-gu is advised by his boss, Yang, to escape to Jeju island for a few days until tempers cool down. In Jeju, Tae-gu comes across the mysterious Jae-Yeon, a girl battling a terminal illness who also happens to be an excellent shot. Even as a bond develops between them and Tae-gu starts enjoying life in his little paradise, Yang and Director Ma Sang-Gil, the new boss of the Bukseong, come to a truce, which involves capturing and killing Tae-gu. What will Tae-gu and Jae-Yeon do now?
Nihilism is a way of life in gangster dramas. Park-Hoon Jung, who wrote the screenplay for the cult film I Saw The Devil a few years ago, understands this all too well. In his latest directorial effort, he goes all out to remind everyone of the human cost of gang wars. Nobody is perfect in Night in Paradise: all the characters know that Father Time is ticking away, and death will come for all. This is why this film, in spite of its blazing guns and zooming body count, seems to be introspective on the affairs of men rather than on matters of the gun. The bleakness hangs heavy over the proceedings, and this is skilfully portrayed through his use of symbolism in certain sequences. Food, for instance, acts as both a bonding exercise, as well as a display of power. While some may criticize the ending for being too bleak, I'd say the ending is pretty justified, considering everything that takes place before that. That being said, I do wish Jung had given some sort of emotional lightness as respite in this blood-soaked narrative. Nevertheless, this crime epic is another worthy addition to the Koream crime-film oeuvre.
Um Tae-Goo brings a certain vulnerability to his battle-hardened character of Tae-gu, who longs for respite from the cycle of death he is constantly trapped in. Jeon Yeo-been is decent as the terminally-ill Jae-Yeon, who shares a bond with him. Park Ho-San is excellent as Yang, who harbours a dark secret of his own. Seung-Won Cha is really menacing as Sang-gil.
Music & Other Departments
Young-Ho Kim's cinematography has a life of its own. You could just watch his shots of Jeju island on mute for hours. Lae-won Jang's editing is effective.
There is a particular action sequence that begins in an airport and takes various turns. It's impressively choereographed.
There's hardly any respite from the undercurrent of nihilism that punctuates this film.
Did I enjoy it?
I was impressed with how the action sequences and dramatic moments have been handled. However, I wish the mood was a little more upbeat.
Do I recommend it?
Definitely, if you're a fan of crime dramas that go beyond action.