Gambling street thug Gang-su is always on the run from loan sharks. But when his young son Jong-chul is diagnosed with kidney cancer, he tries to be a real parent for the first time and seeks out Jong-chul’s biological father, Tae-suk. Tae-suk, however, refuses to help. City of Fathers is relatively light during the first half in comparison with the second, which grows to be filled with violence and plenty of adult situations. Sure the first half is a bit more comedic but it never loses its edge and always keeps the pacing pretty solid. However, even though the characters were strong, I felt some of their stories were unfinished and the ending had a lot left to be desired.
City of Fathers creates a believable and incredibly real environment out of the streets of Korea, and draws the focus not on gruesome torture but on a critique of the justice system in Korea. The director should get a lot of credit here as it was his debut and his handling of the action scenes is similarly impeccable.
Without giving too much away, the film shifts its focus at just about every half-hour mark. The only downside I can think of is that the movie is a bit long. It could be better if they cut off a few scenes, just to make the movie more compact. Regardless, it’s a great movie worth recommending. The acting by everyone involved is very believable and that makes it quite harrowing at points. I don’t want to give away a single thing about the story but what I can say is that its an absolutely brilliant twist on a story that has been done many times before.
The way it is shot and the way the story is told doesn’t conform to the way many Americans think genre clues should be presented and adhered to. At it’s heart, City of Fathers is a drama but it evolves from many different angles. There are also more than a handful of plot moves this film doesn’t do, moves that most people will be guessing it will do, that it more than makes up for it. This is a film I know I’ll watch again just for the performance of it. The plot won’t matter. It’s that good. In summary, the direction is tight and stylish, with some superb suspense and nail biting scenes, and there’s also a strain of humour throughout the film that provide a slight relief from the dark undertone.