Seen in Jeonju

Pained (2011)

30th November 2011

pained(I originally wrote this article for the December issue of Asiana Entertainment which is now available on all Asiana flights this month. Now that it is published, I can share it here) Over the past ten years, Kwak Kyung-taek has made a name for himself directing exciting, male-oriented action films where the roles of women were minor at best. Like a Hemingway novel, Kwak’s films focus on the masculine but the beautifully scripted action sequences and powerful emotions therein manage to speak to all viewers regardless of gender. What then, can you expect when Korea’s premiere director of action movies decides to direct a melodramatic love story? Well, from an experienced director such as Kwak, you should expect nothing less than a powerful story.

Director Kwak manages to instill a healthy dose of fighting and other action into this romance. This is necessary due to the lead character’s job. Nam-soon is a debt collector, a man who visits the homes of people behind on their repayment schedules at the behest of the loan shark who employs him. Such employment is far from glamorous and the debt collectors are feared by most as they often resort to violence to collect the money. However, Nam-soon is different from other debt collectors. In fact, he is different from most other humans. He is suffering from a rare disorder that prevents him from feeling pain. If he is cut, he will bleed, however he will never feel the blade that injured him. It is not a genetic disorder however, it is psychological– as a child he underwent a horrible trauma and now he feels nothing.

On a routine job to terrorize a debtor into paying back funds, Nam-soon runs into a surprising bit of resistance from his target, Dong-hyeon. She is a frail young woman working a small stall on the street selling trinkets and jewelry to people passing by. Although she looks healthy enough, she is referred to as frail because she is a hemophiliac. Because her blood is slow to clot, one shallow scratch might be enough to cause her to bleed to death. Despite the fact that Nam-soon had threatened her for money, she sees through his act and chooses to help him when he receives a severe beating at a labor dispute. This simple act of kindness touches the unfeeling Nam-soon’s heart.

When Dong-hyeon is kicked out of her home by her landlady, Nam-soon is there for her and offers to let the now homeless young woman stay at his home. The pair’s turbulent relationship softens and Dong-hyeon is able to see just how deeply scarred Nam-soon truly is as he starts to open up to her. Initial animosity becomes respect and love and Nam-soon makes significant improvements in his life for the sake of his newfound love. However, as Dong-hyeon’s health is deteriorating, Nam-soon agrees to take one last job that will earn enough money to get her the medical attention she needs.

Nam-soon is played by Kwon Sang-woo known for his romantic, tough guy roles and his winning smile. Kwon rarely smiles over the course of Pained and instead relies on his acting skills. The part of Dong-hyeon is played by Jang Ryeo-won. She is a talented actress who has already appeared in several films and is on her way to becoming a top star in Korean cinema.

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