Revenge, retribution and redemption when tackled properly can be powerful cinematic devices. Even more so in the hands of someone who knows how to wield them with an emotional through line to keep the audience engaged. Famed South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk is one such gifted filmmaker and his opus titled "Pieta" not only has all the above but plays out like a modern day Greek tragedy – skilled hands have their rewards.
Kang-Do is a vicious collector of debts. Working for a crooked loan shark, the seemingly emotionless Kang-Do goes to any and all lengths to collect the money owed. In his wake he leaves a trail of crippled victims, grief stricken moms and a level of carnage that even his employer is slightly appalled by. But one day his empty existence is given a shot of paternal fluid when a woman comes calling and claims to be the long lost mom he never had. Will the existence of such a woman effect the savage nature of the lost Kang-Do and if so what lies ahead for someone who has been living without a soul?
Those are just a few of the questions posed and sometimes answered in the harrowing emotional journey told by Ki-Duk. Pulling no punches, "Pieta" has an almost Clockwork Orange like sensibility where the audience slowly begins to feel bad for the villain of the piece and it’s skillful stuff. Never one-note in his layered work (especially love the underrated 2005 film "The Bow!"), Ki-Duk takes some of the conventions we are used to seeing – violence, anger, resentment and love – and heightens them here for maximum emotional effect. And his ample actors, especially mom Jo Min-soo and son Lee Jeong-jin, sell the ever changing character dynamics ten fold – it’s can’t take your eyes off it work.
What’s most exciting about the film is how a story so contained can be so vast. "Pieta" is like experiencing the ups, downs and outs of a lifetime of a mother/son relationship in a one hundred and four minute time frame – not many director’s left who can accomplish that.
"PIETA" IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECT THEATRES AND IS ALSO AVAILABLE ON DEMAND AND ITUNES.