A Bittersweet Life

April 1, 2005 0 By Fans
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Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is an enforcer and manager for a hotel owned by a cold, calculating crime boss… 

Release Year: 2005

Rating: 7.7/10 (11,077 voted)

Jee-woon Kim

Stars: Jeong-min Hwang, Yu-mi Jeong, Ku Jin

Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is an enforcer and manager for a hotel owned by a cold, calculating crime boss…



Jeong-min Hwang

President Baek

Yu-mi Jeong

Ku Jin


Hae-gon Kim

Weapon smuggler

Roe-ha Kim


Yeong-cheol Kim

Mr. Kang

(as Kim Young-Chul)

Byung-hun Lee


Gi-yeong Lee


Mu-yeong Lee

Eric Moon

Gun Dealer's Brother

(as Eric)

Dal-su Oh


Kwang-rok Oh

Min-a Shin


Sang-Jeon Woo

When doing right goes very, very wrong.


Official Website:
Official site [South Korea] |
Official site [South Korea] (English, Korean) |

Release Date: 1 April 2005

Filming Locations: South Korea

Technical Specs


(Mar del Plata Film Festival)

Did You Know?


The Korean title "Dalkomhan Insaeng" and the name of the bar "La Dolce Vita" translate to "The Sweet Life". As an ironic touch the International English title is called "A Bittersweet Life".


Revealing mistakes:
Toward the end of the film, when Kim Sun-woo is walking down the corridor searching for his former boss, a guard sitting and reading a newspaper gets up to stop him. Kim Sun-woo shoots him but his gun is not pointed at the guard. Rather, it is clearly pointed at the wall where fake blood appears after the shot like a paint gun.


A disciple asked his master, "Do the leaves flow or is it the wind?" His master replied, "No, it is the heart and the mind."

User Review

Chandler meets Woo in a Grind House

Rating: 9/10

I could sit here and start this review off any number of ways to make
this film sound ultra important. I could say, once in a great while a
film comes along, blah, blah. Or, Only a select few films ever have
reached this, blah, blah. Or I could say, if you see one movie this
year, blah, blah. You know the drill. These are the opening sentences
the big-boy critics use when they really want you to see a flick and
when they want a particular review to really stand out. Well, films
that deserve this kind of "special" praise really do only come around
once in a great while. Unbelievably, I have seen two in only six months
time. The first was what I like to call the first real 21st Century
film, and that was Oldboy. And the second film of this status also
comes from Korea, believe it or not, and it is Bittersweet Life.

Bittersweet Life is probably one of the most simple, most streamlined
modern films I have ever seen. It is lean, mean, and like its lead
male, a damn ruthless fighting machine. The film beats along with its
Raymond Chandler-like screenplay with all the jazz and style of early
90's John Woo and with the energy and themes of Quentin Tarantino's
grind house 70's. Life plays with your emotions, making you care for
the bad-guy hero even though he is a vicious killer, and causes one to
release tension through laughter when the blood starts gushing like a
dozen ruptured fire hoses. Wholesale death, blood by the gallons,
broken bones and multiple beatings with humongous pipe-wrenches,
two-by-fours, and lead pipes are on order, right after a heaping dish
of innocent love and a guy trying for once to do the right thing.

The plot, well you see, it's like this: you can see everything coming a
mile away, the movie plays it straight, and follows the exact path you
know it will and the exact path you hope it will. There are no twist
endings, no complicated triple crosses, no hidden motives for the
characters. Everything on screen happens the way you see it, and
everything thing ends exactly the way you picture it. And this is a
good thing. The film is so on track that it doesn't need a twist or a
swerve to make you pay attention. It starts at A, ends at E, and hits
B, C and D on the way there. Life is so steeped in its genre tropes of
noir character and themes that the ending is know to all of us before
it even starts. However, it's the journey that matters, and I'll be
damned if you can find a better-looking, more brutally violent journey

As much as I try to analyze the film, nothing comes to mind. And this
is the purest of all compliments. The film is as shallow as the pools
of blood splattered in the hallways, alleyways and run down exteriors
of the sets. Often times a director feels the need to bog a simple
story down with twists, and a deeper meaning to hide the fact that they
are afraid to just let things happen because they need to happen.
Bittersweet Life is not one of these films. It exists with its soul
laid bare for all to see, and when the carnage is complete, you thank
the film for being honest with itself. As the final credits roll you
might find yourself asking, "Is that it?" Yes, that is it—cinematic
perfection. It is all it needs to be: pure and simple, boisterous and
calm, bloody and drenched in gore and an honest movie with nothing to