28 October 2001 | Yukster_uk
This film consists of four linked segments, two of which were originally award-winning shorts. The first, "Rumble", depicts the build up and effects of a snooker hall scrap between art and tech college students, played by Seung-Wan Ryoo and Seung-Bin Park. We cut between the protagonists and an interview with the owner of the hall, who complains about the wild youths and a need for a government clampdown like in the 70's. The second, "Nightmare" follows one of the tech students (Seung-bin Park) on his release from jail after accidentally killing one of the art students in the first segment, and his entry into organised crime, as the protege of local heavy, President Kim. The third segment "Modern Man" consists of an epic car-park brawl between President Kim and Seung-Wan, (now a policeman) cut against frank interviews in which they talk about their jobs and their positions in society. In "Die Bad", Seung-Bin has become a powerful gangster and Seung-Wan's brother tries to join his group. Each segment has its own style and mood. There are moments of all-out action, drama, comedy and horror hence it is best not to reveal much of the plot, as it has many surprises. There are only 2 female speaking roles in the entire film, hence no sex bits, but this no bad thing as it addresses specifically male deficiencies, in a similar way to "La Haine". This also means there are a few gay subtexts to be found. For example, in "Nightmare", when Seung-Wan wakes up in a motel with President Kim, who calls him a "good-looking boy". Also, the Art student who ends up dead in "Rumble" is supposed to be really tough, but looks like he belongs in a boy band.
The fight scenes are filmed, choreographed and edited brilliantly. They never look staged and it is clear throughout that the director is not trying to make violence look cool. In "Modern Man", for example, the unending brawl is not just about two blokes hitting each other, it's about them being trapped- hence its cyclical time structure. In "Rumble", we see the youths' impressions of violence through clips of videogames and Bruce Lee films. Several times, people in authority shout "Who do you think you are?" at the young protagonists. At one point in "Modern Man", President Kim states nonchalantly, "I am a gangster, a thug". These sequences highlight the theme of the film, how disaffected men use violence to prove they exist. Die Bad, the feature, was reportedly shot for $3000, over a period of three years. Posters of "Romeo + Juliet" and "Tin Cup" are scene on walls during the film. Members of the cast worked during breaks from other bigger budget projects, using leftover film stock and fake blood. The ambition of Die Bad is massive and it is enormously successful. All the performances are brilliant; the film has great energy, originality and packs an emotional punch. There are no guns in the film, which may seem unrealistic, but if they were shooting at each other it would defeat the object, trying as it is to show something more primal. Near the end, a very sentimental piece of music was played, which (although I couldn't understand the Korean lyrics) seemed unnecessary and cloying, but this does not stop Die Bad from being an excellent film. Great things are expected of Seung-Wan Ryoo.