Breathless (18)

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The Independent Culture

"Man hands on misery to man," part 344. This gruelling yet gripping South Korean drama centres upon the loutish enforcer (Yang Ik-Joon, who also wrote and directed) of a local debt collector.

He beats up defaulting clients, student demonstrators, his fellow thugs, even his old dad, who's returned home after a 15-year prison sentence for killing his wife. The only people he doesn't care to abuse are his half- sister, her young son and a schoolgirl (Kim Khobbi) he encounters who's as tough and foul-mouthed as he is. In part it's a pathological case study of a man who just can't help hitting people, but it's also a rebarbative look at native family values and the tendency of South Korean men to regard women – sisters, mothers, daughters – as their personal slaves and punchbags. Hard to watch, at times, but brimming with vitality.

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