|Plot Outline: The intellectual, the humorist, the gangster and the brute: Four unlikely friends growing up during the 70s. But as with all good things, this friendship must eventually come to an end. After enrolling in college, Joong-ho and Sang-taek return to their hometown, only to find out that one of their oldest friends has become a drug addict and the other is in jail. Let alone the fact that both are involved in gang activities. As the years go by, we follow the twists and turns in the lives of the four friends. We follow the tests and trials of the friendship between Joong-ho and Jeong-suk, as well as the rivalry between Jeong-suk and Dong-su in the deceiving world of organized crime.|
The review: I’m stunned! 5 stars and an award for this movie: review end… No, really, I haven’t got one bad word to say about this Korean gem, but I bet I would have old man Josh on my back if I didn’t at least comment on it. So, brace yourself young ones, and get ready to hunger for this fantastic drama that’ll take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride, which in many ways changed the way I look at Korean cinema.
So, what’s so great about this movie you ask me? I wouldn’t know where to start. Even though I had read some pretty good reviews of the movie before buying it, I still couldn’t help but to be astonished by how good it actually was. It made me laugh at the right times, it managed to make me feel for the characters, and actually made me a bit sad towards the end (trying my best not to spoil the ending for you). But most of all, this movie made me nostalgic. It made me think of my earlier years with my friends. After I moved to another town I stopped seeing a lot of them, and I more or less felt like calling them up on the phone right after I finished the movie. It made me think of how hard it must be to witness your best friends become junkies and gang members without you being able to do anything about it.
“Friend” deals with something that everybody has to face at some point or another, the crossroads of life. It portrays several ways of dealing with the act of growing up, both the “correct” way that your parents would tell you to do things, enrolling in college etc, as well as the “wrong” way, earning your money the fast way. I think this is one of the reasons that this movie has become so popular. The problems at hand are something that everybody can relate to. Most people have tried stopping for a minute and look around one day, only to find out that you didn’t have as much in common with your friends any longer. It’s a tough situation to be in, and “Friend” does an excellent job at depicting the feeling that you get in a situation such as that, especially in the friendship between Joong-ho and Jeong-suk. Even though not many people have been in the situation of Jeong-suk and Dong-su, the movie also does an excellent job at drawing the audience in, and showing them how hard the lives of these two gangsters really are.
One thing that took me by surprise was the acting. I don’t mean to sound prejudice or anything, but as much as I love Asian cinema, there’s just something about the acting in many of the movies that I haven’t found too likable. Take for instance Ringu: I loved the movie, but don’t tell me that you found the acting to be spectacular, especially not during the first 10-15 minutes. That was just bad acting, not even Mike and the bots could make that acceptable. The acting in “Friend” was spectacular, though, and I was especially surprised to see “Bulldozer” from “Attack the Gas Station” acting out his role so well. I always had this picture of him in my mind as somewhat comical and unable to play serious roles, but I guess that’s what an unserious role like that will do to ones reputation, even though I liked the movie itself. As for the rest of the cast they’re doing a great job as well, so I’ll not get into commenting on each and everyone of the character’s ability to act.
As for the DVD itself, what I have here is the All Region Mega Star release. As opposed to what I’ve heard some people say, I was pretty satisfied with this release. It comes with a 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen picture, as well as some pretty good English subs (good enough for me not to notice any errors nonetheless.) Last but not least, it has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track in Korean. That’s right, no English dubbing here! All in all, I consider this an above average release, with a pretty good image quality compared to what we’ve seen from a lot of the other Asian DVDs.
What’s left to say about this movie? Nothing much really, except that I urge all of you to go out and buy it. I got it pretty cheap off DDDHouse, and that was money well spent on a DVD of pretty good quality and a movie of exceptional quality. A gem in the collection! As I said in the beginning of the review, I haven’t got anything bad to say, which actually make this movie quite hard reviewing for an old angry bastard like me. But if you ever need to take a break from the ultra-violence of Miike, or the Nazi sleaze that you appreciate so much, perhaps even if you need a movie to watch with your girlfriend (you know that she won’t appreciate “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy”) this may be just what you need.