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Original Title:
Beautiful Sunday

South Korea 2007

Thriller, Drama

Jin Kwang-gyo

Park Yong-woo
Nam Goong-min
Min Ji-hye
Kim Dong-ha
Lee Ki-young
Kim Eung-soo
Oh Jeong-se
Yang Tae-do
Lee Kap-seon
Do Byeong-cheol
Kim Kwang-sik
Lee Jae-goo
Kim Byeong-ok
Jin Kwang-gyo

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Beautiful Sunday

Story: Detective Kang (Park Yong-woo) heads a raid in which mafia boss Sang-Tae (Kim Dong-ha) gets arrested. However, Kang embezzles some of the drugs found and sells them to a rivalling mafia-boss with whom Kang doesn't do business for the first time. Detective Kang is in strong need of the money to pay for the apparats that keep his wife alive, who is lying in a coma for years already. Sang-tae is soon released, though, and wants his drugs and money back. In order to achieve this he sets up a trap for his rival and sends him to prison. Discord unfolds between Kang and his former "business partner". The whole case gets out of control, eventually.
Min-woo (Nam Goong-min) is a shy young man, who secretly falls in love with the girl Soo-yeon (Min Ji-hye). He walks after her whenever he finds the time and one day finally musters up the courage to approach her. But everything goes totally different than planned and Min-woo finds himself raping the girl. Plagued by strong feelings of guilt Min-woo tries to approach Soo-yeon again, after a while. Since she didn't see the attacker's face back then, a romance unfolds between Min-woo and Soo-yeon, that even leads to a marriage. Yet, one day Soo-yeon finds out that she married the man who raped her...
Detective Kang and Min-woo clash one day and have to realize that their pain is of a similar origin and that they will never be able to wash away the sins they commited...

Review: "Beautiful Sunday" wasn't successful at the box office, and apart from that there is also only little to be read about the film. That's even the more odd as this is actually a pretty well-done drama with some thriller aspects, which can win you over mainly thanks to its subject of guilt, redemption and reconciliation as well as two interesting characters. At first, you might think of director Jin Kwang-gyo's debut work as a typical Korean thriller, since the cinematography looks slick and a little bit grim. But soon we realize that the fast pacing at the beginning and the action-loaden police operation during the opening are simply misleading. "Beautiful Sunday" is an almost ambitious drama, which unfortunately doesn't manage in hitting the right notes all the time. Still, what the director brings to the big screen is more than what most other Korean producers deliver these days. The plot is neat and the drama shows to advantage because of the ambivalent characters. Furthermore, the movie is also quite entertaining in its own right, so that we have a drama/thriller in the end, which is definitely underrated by critics.

The story of the movie presents itself to us in a twofold way. The story revolving around detective Kang apparently has nothing to do with the love story of Min-woo. Therefore, the cuts between the two stories are always very clearly noticeable, yet they are also used in a well-balanced manner, so that it's easy to get along with this kind of narration. Kang's story, at first seems like that of a characteristic cop-thriller around a corrupt policeman, who actually isn't that bad, since he merely wants to save his wife that is dying very slowly. To be honest, this story is already quite clichéd also, but because of the story of Min-woo we soon understand, that "Beautiful Sunday" doesn't just want to shed some light on the moral dilemma in which Kang has to find himself in, but that the focus lies on the fact that Kang has done something wrong and now has to struggle with not going to the dogs because of it. And this proves to be not that easy, as the case Kang works on involves his former employer of a mafia gang, so that he has to be careful not the anger the wrong guy, as he would find himself going to jail or six feet under sooner than he can blink with an eye.

Kang's story may be the more thrilling one of the two, but Min-woo's is emotionally more engaging. He later on asks his girlfriend which kind of a person she would prefer: A good person, who has commited a serious sin, or a bad person that hasn't sinned, yet. He doesn't ask her without a reason, since Min-woo's sin is a truely big one. The raping he did wasn't a typical one, though. In fact, he simply wanted to get into a conversation with Soo-yeon, but his appearance at that time in a dark alley scared Soo-yeon, so that she cried for help. Min-woo wanted her to keep quiet, and so before he could realize what happened he did something he never would have thought he'd be capable of, something that would stay as a demon in his head, torturing him forever. What this man did surely isn't forgiveable, but yet the movie manages that we can also have sympathy for this man. However, this emotional scar remains an insurmountable abyss between him and the viewer, in the end. We may be sure of the fact that Min-woo is no bad guy, but his personal deficits make him do things we can only shake our heads over.

Which brings us to the most poignant weakness of "Beautiful Sunday". If something can go wrong then it will go wrong, eventually. When it's possible for Min-woo to behave in a wrong way, then he will do so for whatever unfortunate reasons there are leading him to behave like that. This gives the movie a strong melodramatic character, which at times exceeds the amount of what the viewer can grant as being realistic. Luckily, the two main leads manage to eradicate this flaw most of time during the movie. Nam Goong-min delivers the most memorable performance since his character is very multi-layered and always succeeds in radiating something unfathomable. He is culprit and at the same time victim of his own actions. Nonetheless, the film doesn't take the easy route by simply depicting him as a psycho, but shows us the picture of a human being that made some terrible mistakes which make his world fall apart slowly.
Sadly, there are also some strange scenes, in which the acting of the leads can't be a 100 percent convincing, which applies mainly for Park Yong-woo ("World of Silence", "Musa"). Yet it's safe to say that the acting achievements are settled, apart from the depiction of some cliché-like mafia gang members, naturally, on a high level.

As already stated, "Beautiful Sunday" often looks more like a thriller than like a drama, but this fact also bestows a certain appealing and gritty charm upon the film. The score, surprisingly, is also fitting, even though a bit too action-focused most of the time. Sometimes it's also a annoying that the dramatic scenes are underlined by music too forcefully.
Jin Kwang-gyo's debut scores with a always apparent tension and the fact that we do care about the characters and want to know what fate they might meet in the end. Apart from that, there is also a very nice twist at the end. Especially thrilling is the scene when Kang and Min-woo meet at the police station one Sunday evening (hence the name of the movie). Here it shows that the a good dialogue can add to the thrilling factor of a film. Moreover, Park Yong-woo can finally show a bit more of his skills, when he has to deal with Min-woo, who seemingly is playing around with him, while he is completely exhausted mentally and is on the brink of going mad. But the truth that awaits him is by far more terrible, than what he might have expected of this guy...
A little bit too much melodrama reduces the quality level of "Beautful Sunday", as there is more than necessary, and director Jin also isn't that convincing in conveying his message as he would have liked to be. Still, this is a movie that will earn the approval of many thriller/drama- fans and deserves a thumbs up.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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