Described by the NY Times as a "Critique of Korean society told through the eyes of a young man who becomes enmeshed in the criminal underworld" The young man in question is Mak-dong (Han Seok-Kyu). Returning home from service in the army he rescues a beautiful young lady Mi-ae (Shum Hye-jin), who is travelling on the same train, from three thugs who are harassing and manhandling her. The girl escapes without injury but Mak-dong gets beaten for his trouble and his attackers leave the train. The brave young soldier goes after them but ends up missing his train back home, retaining only a red silk scarf that belonged to the girl. Eventually returning to his mother’s house he reacquaints himself with his three brothers and his wayward sister. Mak-dong wants to set up a family restaurant so that all of its members can work together under the same roof. Our budding entrepreneur has two priorities, to earn the money to set up the new business but more pressingly he wants to find the girl and return her scarf. Travelling to Seoul to find work he discovers that Mi-ae works as a singer in a nightclub. On approaching her he again gets into a fight, this time with the gangsters that run the club. This are led by Bae Tae-gon (Moon Seong-geun) known to his men as Big Brother and Mi-ae is his mistress. But all is not lost as Bae Tae-gon takes a liking to Mak-dong and offers him a job as a car park attendant. But things don’t stop there; other tasks are given to our naïve young ex-soldier who gradually begins to get deeper into Seoul’s crime fraternity.
Cleverly balanced between a family drama and gangster genre thriller that’s made all the better by the acting of Han Seok-Kyu with Lee Dong-jun’s music making it feel very European at times. Not particularly original but very well executed. A promising first feature length film from South Korean director and screenwriter Lee Chang-dong who went on to make the wonderful Poetry (2010) that won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.