Selected out of competition at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, the Korean film Night in Paradise is now available on Netflix in the absence of a theatrical release. A film about revenge and redemption by the screenwriter of I Met the Devil.
What is it about ?
While in hiding on Jeju Island after a violent tragedy, a mobster whose life is at a price befriends a woman plagued by her own demons.
In the purest tradition of Korean dramas evolving within the local mafia, Night in Paradise generously pours a few liters of hemoglobin. Tae-Gu (Tae-goo Eom) is no stranger to it. While he is an outstanding henchman in his criminal organization, he longs for a different life to better take care of his sister – condemned by an incurable disease – and his niece.
But the tragedy strikes first the family of Tae-Gu who takes revenge by attacking the leader of the opposing gang. His boss then offered him to be forgotten on Jeju Island – before being redeployed to Russia – where he was housed by an arms dealer and his depressed niece, Jae-Yeon (Jeon Yeo-bin), because she also condemned by disease.
In the midst of this heavy atmosphere, Tae-Gu and Jae-Yeon weave a semblance of friendship. But of course, Tae-Gu’s troubles haunt him to Jeju Island. Explosions of violence, bladed weapons, spurts of blood… all the figures of speech of the genre are respected to the letter. Sensitive souls refrain.
The absolute tragedy
Korean mafia films often take the action to its limits to bring out compressed emotion. Here, Tae-Gu doesn’t even have time to do the act of redemption that his sister and niece have already taken away from him. It is then through contact with Jae-Yeon that his humanity will be able to express itself.
This improbable duo would flourish wonderfully in a completely different film which would tell the awakening to life of two beings incapable of happiness. This underlying theme is particularly evident in a pretty one in a restaurant that serves their favorite meal. But Night in Paradise is satisfied with a simple evocation of another possible in these fleeting moments of rest. Because the action always ends up catching up with the protagonists.
As a cursed and silent hero, Tae-goo Eom delivers a composition without false notes. Despite its violence, the sentimentalism of the film allows it to exist beyond the caricature of the gangster and to turn him into a human character, with his frailties and his rage beneath his apparent calm. Despite undeniable qualities, Night in Paradise presents itself as an uncompromising film, the brutality of which can leave a bitter taste.