A Jesus-and-Mary dynamic becomes psychosexually twisted — replete with a horrific mother-son handjob — in Pietà, an intriguing tale of redemption and rebirth from director Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring; Three-Iron) that eventually segues into a more conventional revenge drama. Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin) is a loan shark who cripples deadbeats in order to collect his money via insurance payouts; his life is upended after he's approached by a woman (Cho Min-soo) claiming to be his long-lost mom. This maternal figure soon transforms the thug through her saintly remorse for abandoning Kang-do and her benevolence toward him despite his nasty profession. It's during the first hour, however, that Kim's expertly modulated morality play is most gripping, presenting Kang-do's hand-smashing, leg-breaking brutality for profit as a reflection of a Korean society in which the industrial working class is crushed underfoot by corporate capitalist development. Alas, after establishing a central parent-child relationship rife with wacko biblical undertones, the director finds nowhere to take his story except into standard vengeance territory, a twist that leads to rote suspense that isn't enlivened by the climax's telegraphed ironies. A coda strives to capture a sense of tragically earned transcendence, but the film is far more fascinating when mucking around in hell.
Recommended For You
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!